Travelling tomes

Subha J. Rao
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Through RAPO, a Facebook page, book lovers read and pass on books, free of cost.

Let your library take wingRead and pass on – RAPO – a group onfacebook.Photo:K. Ananthan
Let your library take wingRead and pass on – RAPO – a group onfacebook.Photo:K. Ananthan

Two months ago, Menaka Sankaralingam, 35 and a mother of two, was browsing the Net when she saw a forum where people sold old books for just Rs. 25. “One might very well give them away for free,” she thought. That very afternoon, she created a Facebook forum, ‘Read And Pass On’ (RAPO), where people are encouraged to pass a book around to members once they have read it. They also post short reviews. Today, the group has nearly 300 members and about 70 books have made their way to and from Jammu, Gurgaon, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune.

Sending the first book

The first book out on RAPO was Three Lives: In Search of Bliss . K.S. Selvakumar, 53, who works in Jammu, sent it to Chennai. He heard of the group from Menaka, a friend, and says, “I wanted others to read this book.” One of the earliest to RAPO was Priya V.K. Singh from Gurgaon. Her book went to Sridhar Pabbisetty in Bangalore. Initially, she used speed post (“once, the charges were nearly as much as the book’s cost!”). Then, she switched to the more inexpensive registered post; this ensured that distances don’t matter.

Devi Sambamoorthy is 34 and loves bestsellers. “Until 20 years ago, I was mainly into Tamil fiction and missed out on a whole body of work by English authors,” she says. The reviews on RAPO help her decide which book to read. When she heard about RAPO, she checked which books she could part with. “I love all my books,” she thought, before it dawned on her that unless she gave, it would not be ethical to ask and receive. So, she took out her second copy of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and posted it on RAPO. Six seconds later, there was a response!

Menaka says some books don’t really deserve shelf space and it makes sense to pass them on. Devi feels RAPO will influence her future buying decisions — on whether the books are to preserve or pass on.

RAPOing is also about trust — that the receiver will not hold on to the books. The rules help. “Every member must RAPO a book before asking for one,” says Priya. Also, members are allowed to keep a book for as long as they want before they pass it on. Menaka says that when she started, the idea was to RAPO within Chennai, but the idea caught on elsewhere too. The rules allow for the receiver to pay for the courier charges. Some share expenses. Other senders pay. Or, they meet in a common place and exchange books. Menaka says that people exercise caution while sharing addresses.

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