Of all the possible reasons I started a bookshop in Delhi, it was not to make tons of money as much as it was for the love of books. Having no grand illusions of being an overnight billionaire, I still got the go ahead from my father (read financial support) and started Fact & Fiction at Basant Lok market, Vasant Vihar, in the summer of 1984, two years before my eldest son was born.
I read up every 'how to' book on book selling, which were fraught with warnings for people like me. The message was loud and clear: 'do not fill up the book shop with books YOU like'. So then how was I to stock up a bookshop?
I started with a very small inventory, replacing one book sold by two of the same genre. That's how stock slowly started to fill up in every crevice of my shop. I kept a simple aim from the start; that any lay person walking into the shop with a desire to read about any subject, should find at least one book that would help further his or her interest; be it on occult, gardening, art or science, religion or travel. Over the years I have tried to maintain what has turned out to be a larger than life ideal. We stock books on cinema, popular music, world and Indian history, philosophy and religion, literary and popular fiction, politics and current affairs, science fiction and fantasy, crime fiction, cookbooks and food writing, economics, social sciences, Indian fiction, wildlife and ecology. Also travel guides and travelogues, biographies, as well as graphic novel. Difficult as it may seem, I try and do justice to various genres. There is an obvious South Asian bias in our selection; all books are in English and sourced either from the US, UK or Indian publishers. I'm often asked how I manage to pack in so much in so little space. The trick has always been my store's eclectic range. Each time I order a book, I try and visualize a buyer picking a book and saying, 'that's exactly what I have been searching for!' For this, you require a feel for books as well as a taste for them.
The last 25 years has seen monumental changes sweeping the global book trade; but apart from that, even at our local level, I find, as a behaviour pattern, people less ...
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