Outside Chennai Book Fair, Second Hand Business Thrives - The New Indian Express

Outside Chennai Book Fair, Second Hand Business Thrives

Published: 20th January 2014 07:57 AM

Last Updated: 20th January 2014 07:57 AM

“I am talking. You understand. What book you want? I give”, says Ayyappan with a million dollar smile. This reporter is taken aback by Ayyappan’s spontaneous demonstration of his English vocabulary. “I can understand if you talk. But it is difficult for me to respond in English,” says this used-books seller, switching back to Tamil.

Ayyappan and a few of his chums in the business are selling old books opposite the YMCA grounds in Nandanam, the venue of the Chennai Book Fair. The sidewalk, except for two feet of space has disappeared beneath an assortment of fiction, poetry, history, manuals, biographies and reference books, all stacked up in neat rows.

Pavements and bus stops near colleges are the usual spots where these hawkers set up shop, but the book fair promises a better market. “The book fair is like an annual get-together for us. Our sales double in these two weeks as hundreds of people walking to the bus stop from the book fair stop by,” says Valayapathy, who ordinarily sells outside colleges in Egmore and Chetpet. Purchasing used books from such sellers is cost-effective especially for students since they can return the books for half-rate. With a lot of readers converging in one place, it is no wonder that the vicinity of the book fair is a favoured spot for these used book sellers.

Ayyappan, Valayapathy and a couple of other booksellers outside the fair are all school drop-outs but name a book and they promptly they fish it out for you, or offer alternate suggestions if they don’t have it. Akin to all established publishers one can find inside the book fair, these second-hand books sellers also have loyal customers. “I have been buying used books from his father and now from him,” says Murthy, a retired banker, pointing to one of the sellers who looks away with a self-conscious smile.

It is not only those returning from the fair that barter with these peddlers, but also a few who take a look before entering. These small vendors are perks of a big carnival. But the elaborate stockpile of books at the fair is the main attraction. Everything else is a mere side show.

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