How much does one pay when a book is priced at Rs. 32.78? Does one pay Rs. 32.50 or Rs. 33? This is the dilemma for Pre-University students who are busy buying textbooks as classes are set to reopen.

With several PU textbooks prescribed by the Government stamped with such quirky prices, the situation has left both booksellers and buyers confused. For instance, the I PU Kannada course book, Prayoga Chandan, is priced at Rs.10.13 while the English workbook, World View, costs Rs. 32.78.

Textbooks for II PU are also priced similarly: the English course book Ennoble costs Rs. 25.03 and Kannada course book, Prayug Jyoti, Rs.12.80. Considering all coins below Re. 1 denomination have disappeared, this poses a piquant situation.

Explaining the rationale behind this curious pricing, M.R. Jagannath, Deputy Director of Karnataka Textbook Society, said: “The publishers, who are given tenders to print the textbooks, are given a limited profit margin. As they cannot exceed this amount, they quote the exact price of the book after its production costs and the profit margin is added up.”

Publishing houses responsible for fixing the prices of textbooks have no problems dealing with this issue. “As we sell these books wholesale, we don't face any difficulty. We get our returns from booksellers,” said Vinay Prasad, director of Sri Venkateshwara Enterprises, a publishing house.

Cascading effect

However, the burden of handling the bizarre price tag is shifted to the booksellers. As C.V.S. Murthy of Shree Balaji Books and Stationers pointed out that customers cannot pay the exact amount, so the seller is forced to round off the price to the previous figure. “We may incur a loss of only a few paise per book, but over thousands of copies, the loss is significant.”

For other booksellers, the monetary losses are only secondary to the arguments they encounter with their customers.

“Every day, a fight inevitably breaks out with a customer who refuses to pay us the extra change. We cannot even offer a chocolate or a pen to round off the amount,” said Jeevan, who works at the B.S. Gowda Book House on Cubbonpet Main Road.

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