Buying books at these markets may be cheaper than buying onions

Buy books in bulk — either by weight or in boxes, as two major sales come to town

December 11, 2019 04:38 pm | Updated December 12, 2019 11:34 am IST

Four lorries loaded with 1,200 cartons of books have made their way to Chennai from Mumbai over the past couple of days. Madhavi and Ajay Gupta can tell you that these 60,000 books weigh approximately 40,000 kilograms. They know this because that’s how they sell books: by weight!

The duo runs Butterfly Books/BooksByWeight, out of a warehouse in Mumbai. For the first time, they are bringing their sale to Chennai. Here, you can buy books — mostly pre-owned — as you would shop for vegetables: load your arms with them, have them weighed at the checkout counter, and get your bill accordingly. A kilogram of fiction books, for instance, would cost ₹100.

Expect regular paperback fiction novels and hardback vintage literature, from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens, in copies published in the early 1900s. Non-fiction and coffee table books on European art, interiors, cookery, crafts, photography and so on will be available for ₹300 per kilo. The book fair has a special section for children’s books: from board books for toddlers to children’s fiction in paperback, also priced at ₹300 per kilo. “Generally, these are the books that are sold out on Day 1,” says Madhavi.

“Most of our books, around 90%, are from UK publications like MacMillian and Kingfisher. So we have a lot of British authors,” she says. This is because Butterfly Books before selling books by weight, used to be a bookstore dealing primarily in children’s books from the UK. “My husband and I are on good terms with libraries, schools and bookstores there,” she says.

Established in 2001, Butterfly Books made the switch to selling in bulk in 2013 after e-commerce rung the death knell for brick and mortar stores. “With Flipkart, Amazon and e-Bay around, we had come very close to shutting down. Then, my husband had this idea for a new model of business,” she says.

Though they were initially apprehensive about how purists would look at books being sold by weight, their first ever sale in Mumbai quelled all their doubts: the checkout lines spilled on to the streets. Since then they have been travelling to different cities like Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, and now, Chennai.

“We found that people are very cost conscious: if you give them a good bargain, like a novel priced at ₹400, for just ₹30, they will buy it!” she says.

BooksByWeight Mumbai’s sale is on at Sri Sankara Hall in Alwarpet, until December 15, from 10 am to 8 pm.

Fill up your boxes

Bookchor is back with Lock The Box, a 10-day literary festival, that offers over one million pre-owned books. At this website’s annual warehouse sale, you can select boxes of different sizes, and then fill them up with as many books as you can.

The Odysseus Box will fit eight to 10 books at ₹999, while the Perseus Box accommodates up to 17 books at ₹1499. The biggest of them is the Hercules box which can hold up to 30 books and costs ₹2499.

Use your wits to best fit as many books into one box as possible, and then use your might to carry that box all the way to the check-out counter. Happy shopping!

Lock The Box will be held at Vijaya Mahal in T Nagar, from December 13 to December 22, from 9 am to 10 pm.

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