Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Strand Books sale

Every year, Strand Books has two sales. These sales are popular because they offer a large variety of books at attractive prices. The subjects are diverse, and since books are sold quickly and replaced with different titles, the sales offer an incentive to revisit several times; a single missed day could mean missing a title you might not see again. The same holds true for every hour of the day. The argument (mine entirely) - to pitch a tent besides the storeroom for a fortnight and examine every box that comes out - is persuasive to me but, for employment reasons, unsustainable.

But most books I've seen, from the ones that use the letter 'V' for 'U' to the books that spell 'travelling' with one 'L', have prices that are unchanged from their in-store prices. On the back cover of a dazzling yellow hardback it says 20.99 Pounds, and on the first page, in pencil, it is marked Rs. 750-. The price has certainly been cut dramatically, but if it isn't lower than the store price, it shouldn't be part of a sale. Or else Strand could advertise the year-round sale that goes on at their store, since the price of everything has been slashed, and scrap the sales.

The store is a wonderful place to shop and while away time in, and where it edges out the sale for me is the leisurely pace it has. Plonk down beside a shelf and read for hours. Listen to the proprieter entertain visitors with stories about authors whose books they're skimming through. Watch him make a convincing sales pitch, starting with a smile, delivering the sales facts with a grave tone in the middle, and then ending with a smile. Visit there often enough and they silently ask if you're interested in back issues of Granta and inform you that Pankaj Mishra's Modern Library book on Modern India isn't out of print, as they had said last time, but it hasn't been printed yet. And since with books it's always personal, the silent thrill of such familiarity makes visiting here even more tempting.

But when it comes to book collections, I wish they were a little more like the more famous Strand, in New York.

1 comment:

arzan said...

I remember their book sales and use to await them so eagerly. As a student of architecture, books were prohibitively expensive, and hence any chance to get them cheap was thorougly appreciated and exploited to the hilt.