A Sidney Sheldon bestseller usually sells for Rs 300. But at the rate of Rs 200 a kilo, this novel weighing 200 grams, can just be yours for Rs 40. If you are lucky, you may get JK Rowling's Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix in hardback, weighing 924 gm, for Rs 180. Similarly, Stieg Larsson's thriller, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, weighing 490 gm, would be yours for Rs 100.
Yes, that's precisely how books - old, new, dog-eared - are being sold at a stall at the ten-day Shilpotsav in Noida stadium, Sector 21. By weight. Just like your potatoes. The banner at the stall, set up by Raja Books Delhi that also runs the Big Book Bazaar in Darya Ganj, loudly proclaims: First time in the world book by weight! An online search, however, reveals this way of selling is nothing new. Exhibitions in Pune and Mumbai are known to have adopted this sales strategy. There is a Facebook page too called, BooksByWeight.
"We have decided to sell books by weight after seeing a decline in the sale of books. We hope to get people reinterested in the reading habit. And the method is working," says stall owner MK Jain.
Jain should know. He had set up a books-by-weight stall at Shilpotsav Noida last year too and it was a sold-out affair. It has been a successful sales strategy at Spice Mall also where he puts up a similar stall from time to time. "Even to buy a Rs 20-a-book, people think twice. But when I introduced this method, people immediately took to it," Jain says. His experiment has also worked well in various exhibitions across India - Vizag, Patna, Jaipur, Bangalore.
Jain procures his books mostly from clearance sale by publishing houses in UK who disposes off their unsold lot to clear precious warehouse spaces. Ninety per cent of the books at the Shilpotsav stall are imported and the four-ton stock includes a diverse collection ranging from classics like Treasure Island and Enid Blyton series to Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time, self-help, DIY and coffee table books on cookery, elephants, art and parenting. Besides, note book, drawing books, scrap books for kids are also being sold - all at the same rate of Rs 200 a kilo.
Book worms of Noida are excited, of course. "Imported story books for kids are way too expensive. Here, I have got a whole bunch for peanuts," says home maker and mother of two Tashneem Chaudhury from PMO Apartments in Sector 62, Noida. Her only problem: How will she carry these home now! They are way too heavy!
However, not everyone is amused. "For people like me who make a living by writing, it doesn't sound right. If books are going dirt cheap, what will authors earn?" says Niti Singh, a resident of ATS Greens II in Sector 50. But that wouldn't stop her from "checking out the stall".
Besides the book stall, there are as many as 400 handicrafts and gift stalls at the event which started yesterday (October 18) and will go on till October 27. An initiative of Noida Authority and UP Tourism, it has brought together small scale entrepreneurs and handicraft artisans from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Karnataka. Even Thailand has set up five stalls selling eco-friendly products. And oh, there are cultural performances, Ghazal sessions, stand-up comedy events and poetry sessions. And to prevent you from dropping while shopping, there are about 10 food stalls serving Rajasthani, Awadhi, Gujarati, Haryanvi and traditional UP cuisines, to keep your fatigue away.
Just don’t forget to bring a few empty backpacks to carry your shopping home. Especially, the books. Words and wisdom are no lightweight.
Entry fee: Rs 20. Children below three can enter free of cost.