The smell of books and the sound of the page turning makes any book lover get on their toes and trace it. The feel of a book and especially when it is old runs a chill down their spine; they will look for special editions, getting happy by seeing little notes and messages on the first page.
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This is what attracts most of the young adults towards second-hand books, or even older books. People flock to Old Delhi and Daryaganj-the hub of old cheap books. It seems to solve the purpose of finding great books with an additional perk of lesser price. While some visit to purchase a particular book whenever they want, others do a monthly trip coming back with cartons full of whatever they like.
“I just need an opportunity to run to Daryaganj. The moment classes end early or the weather is great or even if I have exhausted all that I have read, I rush to the shops and buy as many as I can fit in my bag. The best part is that I can sell the older books I had finished reading and use that money to buy more,” says Sayontini Banerjee, a Delhi University student, who is an avid reader.
Girish Chandra Kumar, a bookseller who’s had his family shop at Ansari Marg for over 80 years, feels delighted every time a customer asks for an old book. More and more people are asking for older books. They feel that these second-hand books are more precious and the books that are sold to me are now in a better condition than what they were earlier. He says,
“We usually cater to the age group of 16-35, and college students being the primary clients. There is a bond with many of my customers because I tend to tell stories about a particular book that is bought multiple times. I’ve seen people make friends by coming to buy second-hand books.”
There are some who prefer old books because they get to read much more than what is printed. Priyanshi Jha, a 23-year-old MBA student, says, “I have found so many notes written on the first page or the last page of books that were published 40-50 years ago. Books as birthday gifts are my favourite. A mother gifted a version of Sense and Sensibility when her daughter turned 20, saying that it is a family tradition of gifting their favourite Jane Austin.
Similar to this kind of love for extra reading, a football coach and a voracious reader, Aziz Qureshi says,
“People have left pieces of papers with a note on them as bookmarks. I have a collection of over 13 notes of these kinds and they all are just so enchanting to read, each revealing a deep secret or an emotion.”
Dr Himani Dutta, a professor of English, credits the growth of reading second-hand books to the increase in popularity of the vintage. “The youth are on a journey to revive the past traditions. It is a delight to see them read older versions of books and giving more importance to the preface and the editor’s notes. I have had students who have compared these prefaces of the same book but through different versions across time.”
Students of the University are opting to buy their prescribed books from these second-hand booksellers than buying newer copies because they get ready-made notes. People who have moved out of the country or the city have made a point to visit the old part of Delhi to buy one or two books for their way and bring back the previously bought to continue their habit and passion for old books. Second-hand books are not just providing us with the joy of reading but are bringing together an imagined community that is bound by one experience.
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Jagriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV
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