Prasanna, 25, a student in Kathmandu, is an avid reader. No wonder he visits bookstores almost every week.
But it is not always affordable for a student like Prasanna to buy books on a regular basis. A few years ago, he found it difficult to buy new books frequently because he didn’t have enough money to do so. He once considered giving up the habit of reading.
But it wasn’t long before he discovered places that would quench his thirst for buying new books at affordable prices. As he roamed around Kathmandu, he found a few second-hand bookshops – the shops that sell used books relatively cheaply.
Walk through the street of Bhrikutimandap or anywhere around major colleges in Kathmandu, you can find many others like him. They say antique shops that buy and sell used books have been a boon to them. However, traders involved in the deal say they have begun to fear the continuity of their business recently due to various factors.
Today, Prasanna doesn’t just buy used books. When he has finished reading them, he sells them back to the antiquarian bookshops.
“These bookstores have made my learning life very comfortable,” says Prasanna. “Now I don’t have to worry about the price of books like I used to.”
Prasanna’s experience with second-hand bookshops is satisfactory. While people generally express concerns about the book‘s physical quality and appearance, he says he accepts any book as long as it’s readable.
Ashish Khatri, the owner of one such antiquarian bookshop in Sundhara, Kathmandu, says people from all backgrounds have been his customers for 15 years. “This includes students, officers and intellectuals,” says the owner of Khanda Devi Books and Stationery, “It’s been 15 years and I’m happy with my business.”
Some people may feel uncomfortable shopping at second-hand bookstores at first, but once they start doing it, they get used to it, says Khatri.
In general, second-hand bookshops sell books for 30 to 50 percent of their original price, he says.
Khatri earns an average of 5,000 to 6,000 rupees per day in his antiquarian bookshop.
Promotion of reading culture
For someone who buys used books in bulk with the motive of starting a library, Khatri offers a discount of up to 65 percent to promote reading culture among the youth.
In Khatri’s experience, readers who are trying to develop their reading habits come to his store because they are reluctant to spend big on books, he says. He says it makes him happy too, since second-hand bookshops like his have helped them break into the world of reading.
Another second-hand bookstore owner, Hari Krishna Khadka, echoes Khatri on many aspects of the second-hand book business.
Khadka says: “Mostly students prefer to buy them. I am happy to have helped students while doing my business.”
Khadka claims that buying used books is worthwhile and they don’t cause any problems with reading. In fact, he says they’re a better choice for cautious readers because they can collect more books from second-hand bookshops at a lower cost.
fears of the future
But Khadka laments that many of his clients have not understood this fact. In his experience, the antiquarian book market in Kathmandu is shrinking every day.
Khatri, too, sometimes feels that the used book market is shrinking as universities change their curricula more frequently than they used to. “In that case, they have no way of buying new books.”
On the other hand, nowadays students have started to save PDF files of the books on their mobile phones. However, he hopes this can’t be a problem as reading the prints has its own perks.