For the love of books

Mahfuzul Haque writes about a number of Facebook pages which are selling ‘used’ books to Bangladeshis, at a time when the number of ‘used’ book shops are rapidly decreasing across the country

001When you are alone with no one around to talk to, a book is the trusted companion that, not only helps you to gain knowledge, but also enhances your imagination and self.
For avid readers, it is a passion to visit the book stalls for new releases by their favourite authors or for the older titles that they have been looking for years. Only voracious readers can feel a buzz, almost akin to the thrill of doing something adventurous, when they find their desired books, smooth down its pages and crack the spine for the first time.
In Bangladesh, Nilkhet is considered by far the most popular book market for readers where it was easy to find a wide range of titles by authors from home and abroad. The market was the landmark for its collections of used books at cheap prices, attracting book-lovers from across the capital as well as different parts of the country.
There were a number of book stalls in other parts of Dhaka including Motijheel, Stadium market, Naya Paltan, Dhaka University premises etc. where used books were sold at prices ranging from Tk 20 to 200.
Similar shops were also found in some areas of Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal and other divisions of the country.
002But over the last couple of years, the collections of older books in these markets have dwindled to the point of extinction. Most shop-owners at Nilkhet had attributed this wane in supply indirectly to the decreasing number of readers.
Due to the busy lifestyle and traffic congestion in the city, most book-lovers cannot visit these stores as they used to do even four to five years back.
Even a decade ago, Adel Ahmed, a strategic planner at Concito PR, used to regularly visit Nilkhet to quench his thirst for books. ‘I can no longer do this due to my busy lifestyle. Also, I read books digitally on my tablet now,’ he says.
While Nilkhet still has a few stalls that often sells used books, there is hardly any market or stalls across the country where readers can now find used books.
In order to meet the demand of these readers, some book-lovers have come forward to offer older books through their Facebook pages. You no longer need to go to the market. The service is at your fingertips, just click, orders and the books will be delivered at your doorstep.
New Age Xtra has talked to some of the initiators of these pages, who have their own methods and strategies to sell their books through Facebook.

Brown Paper
003Alfred Christopher D’Silva, a teacher at Green Gems International School in Dhaka, inherited a huge collection of books from his grandfather and parents that helped him to become a passionate reader.
The motivation behind opening the Facebook page for Alfred was not just selling books and earning some money, rather he wants to share the knowledge with others. Alfred considers his page a platform for sharing knowledge and for increasing readers.
He shares with New Age Xtra that most of his students lack the passion for reading. ‘They do not want to read books,’ he says.
‘Keeping the books on my desk means confining knowledge only to myself. So I decided to sell the books to other readers to disseminate the knowledge. The money that I earn from the sale also helps me to buy new books for me. I usually sell them again after reading them,’ Alfred shares.
Readers can drop messages in the inbox of Brown Paper. Once the orders are finalised, Alfred delivers the books to the readers personally and also collects the cash. ‘I do each and every delivery on my own because I love to meet the buyers,’ he says.
Dhara Hasan, a friend of Alfred, helps him to operate the page. At present, Alfred is offering only English books. He has a plan to introduce Bengali books from December.

Book Street
004Syed Mohammad Rezwan, a BRAC University graduate, opened the page on August 3, 2014. He got the idea after seeing the sheer number of people in his peer groups who searched for books.
‘I always wanted to do something to bring books to readers,’ shares Rezwan, who is also an avid reader since his childhood. Initially he was planning to develop a website. But later he decided that a Facebook page will be more convenient to reach the actual readers.
After serving seven years in a job, Rezwan quit and initiated the group. He was later joined by Ratul Khan, a friend, in the initiative.
The duo regularly update new arrivals to the group by posting images and abridged details of the books including price. Interested buyers can drop messages in the page’s inbox for ordering the books.
The books are delivered to the customers at their desired locations where the cash is also collected. ‘We also deliver books to readers outside Dhaka through courier service,’ Rezwan informs.
The page offers both English and Bangla books that ‘we usually collect from the publishers. The sellers also communicate with us to sell their old books,’ Rezwan says.
‘Initially we found encouraging response from the readers. But in latter months, we found that the avenue of readers in the country is small,’ observes Rezwan. ‘I am still doing it as a part of my passion.’

Book Shop

SONY RAMANY

SONY RAMANY

Since his childhood, Azizur Rahaman Nabil, a student in Chittagong, has been a voracious reader. ‘When I began to buy Bangla books, I realised that sellers were charging exorbitant prices. I found the same while buying original English books,’ Nabil says.
To quench his thirst for reading books as well as to bring books to the readers at cheaper prices, Nabil opened his Facebook page on November 11, 2014.
Readers can order books by dropping messages in the page’s inbox and ‘we also receive order over phone.’ The page is operated from Chittagong so the buyers in Chittagong can get books with cash-on delivery.
Readers from outside Chittagong can receive delivery through courier service. ‘In this case we charge additional Tk 30 as courier cost along with the total price of books ordered,’ Nabil says.
He collects books from various sources including dealers, publishers and libraries.
‘In this short span of time, I have received good response from the readers. But there are some readers who are hesitant to pay before receiving the books,’ Nabil says. ‘Reading books is my passion and I also want to share the books with readers.’

Go Bookish
Around two years ago, a team of three friends embarked on this venture. As Facebook is a growing popular social networking site, the team understood that creating a Facebook page will be convenient for reaching the readers.
Like the other three, interested buyers can contact the page by leaving messages in the page’s inbox. The team procures books from abroad via their contacts overseas. Then they send the books to the buyers through courier.
A member of the team says that they are receiving encouraging response from the readers. ‘Majority of readers come back to us before they finish reading the current book. Also there’s a stream of foreigners who also buy books from the page’, a member of team informs.

There are other pages on Facebook also who are catering to the needs of book-lovers.
Also, a number of book stores like Bookworm, Words N Pages, Bookweb and others are also reaching out to readers across the country through their pages on Facebook.

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