Used, not useless

What was virtually non-existent just a few years ago has now turned into brisk business for those who have ventured into it — trade in used books, particularly textbooks. Those in the line say they had qualms when they took the plunge. But their doubts proved unfounded. Now, we can now count them by the dozens, and they have also fanned out across various urban centres where there is a demand for books. There also existed a market for second-hand books before the new spurt, but that had a very limited clientele and focus — Freak Street to begin with and later Thamel, still a hub, where tourists could buy and sell such books, mainly fiction and travel writing at well below the cover prices.

Interest in used textbooks may have grown because of the ever-rising prices of new books. The used book vendors are reported to pay 20 per cent to 40 per cent of the cover prices, depending on the condition of the books and their sales potential, and to re-sell them at between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the price tags of the new ones. It makes sense for a buyer if the savings work out to something substantial. However, there are also weighty questions of new editions, revisions and addition of new material likely to be inserted into fresh stuff. The risk of torn or missing pages is always there with the used items. But this trend also uncovers another aspect — a good proportion of today’s students throw away their books as soon as their results are out.