New age mantra: Short, sweet and cheap

IN THE era of the individual, Pi's life does not interest. Not sufficiently anyway for the booksellers to laugh all the way to State Bank of India. Yann Martel's tale of a Delhi zoo inmate fails to enthral the Delhi readers brought up in the age of `me and mine', bigger is better and better seeks the best. Providing the roadmap to a `better you, better life' are `feel good, look great, act fast, achieve success now' books moving off the book shelves across Delhi faster than you can say, well, the name of the latest management guru in town! Woods might still be lovely, dark and deep but nobody has the time to stand and stare or to share the sorrow of Pi. Nirvana is in the moment. To each his own.

Little wonder this year UBS alone has launched 15 new editions of `how to' books aiming to chisel out a better individual, with editions that don't pinch the pocket and promise you heaven on earth.

Shiv Khera's "You Can Win" after the nth reprint is all over the piracy circuit, and another "Get Set Go" by Swati and Shailesh Lodha, a husband-wife self-styled team hit the circuit too, telling us all that the road to success is under construction, you just have to have the fuel or the feet to undertake the journey. Giving them a run for their money, besides providing you the route to making money and more is Arindam Chaudhuri whose "Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch" fluttered quite a few wings this year.

Rubbing shoulders with them is another husband-wife duo - Sandeep and Manisha Chaudhary - whose "Leadership Your True Destiny" did not quite make it to the top of the list but managed to keep the authors in the fray. As indeed was the case with Jagdeep Kapoor's "Brand Naamkaran" which sought to outline the path to business success. "It is all in the name," Kapoor said, we nodded, our business acumen sufficiently sharpened.

New age mantra: Short, sweet and cheap

This new book business is almost like the beauty business - enter now, emerge a couple of hours later, cleaner, more beautiful, your assets enhanced, your flaws underplayed.

Here, you read the books at night, face the interview in the morning, lead a team of youngsters at work in the afternoon and make use of some quick tips to improve your intimate life at night. No claims to profundity or intellectual stimulation, they are the by-products of a time when speed is king and the preferred food is fast.

Says Anshul Chawla, executive director, UBS Publishers and Distributors Private Limited, "The figures that are out in book shops and the publishing world reveal that more and more space is being given to these books, and sales are increasing in this area. They are simple books, not specialised ones.

They are not targeted at high-profile readers but those with some interest in reading, those who frequent the World Book Fair. Pricing is done carefully so that no book of ours in the `how to' series costs more than Rs. 150 or thereabout."

The UBS guys who launched their series only around mid-year, used a two-pronged strategy. "We realised that there were other books too on the subject. These books have been chosen from a wider lot because we wanted to get something to Indian readers as fast as possible, taking care to select only those books with facts and figures relevant to Indians."

If there is "Blank Page" for the benefit of those who have to make speeches and turn dumb at the prospect of addressing an audience, there is "Achieve Twice as Much in Half the Time" seeking to provide practical new ways to maximise your time and transform your life. And then there is nearly a hundred page booklet, telling youngsters how to frame their CV. "The visual impact must be good, it must ask to be read; use strong `action' words and avoid the use of `I', `my', etc.," says Geral Higginbottom, the author. And if you are out of a job, unemployed and almost unemployable, don't panic, tips on "Overcoming Depression" are on their way. If so inclined, in this age of immediate salvation, on offer is UBS' "Exploring Spirituality". Since nothing sells like sex, how can the book publishers be left behind? Real joy in the real thing may not come in an instant, but that's not preventing "Quick Fix Your Sex Life" kind of books from raking in the moolah. From articles in lifestyle magazines and men's rags to special books telling you that the best way to rejuvenate your personal life is to abstain from sex, the subject has come a long way. And it still delights. "Go on a retreat for a week and don't think about sex," advises the author of this quick-fix sex book. Matters little that those who need these words the most are likely to have anything but that on their mind! Incidentally, such has been the demand for these books that as many as 10 leading stores across Delhi have made a special rack for `how to' series. "It is gala time for `how to' series," sums up Chawla. If life offers choices, choice also leads to confusion. Make sure you pick the right book to undertake the journey of self-enlightenment, for a wrong self-help book is like an envelope with a wrong address. It will never reach its destination.