... of my eminently spotted mind has found itself a quandary to quandar for some time to come. That of the economics of running a bookshop.
All of this transpired the previous week, when I took a few hours off work to go hang out at the beleaguered Premier Book Store and to spend my spoils of a 2000 buck book coupon from last KQA Open Quiz Sunday. (For those who don't know, We Are Like That Wonly were without member, and I guested ('whored' in Arul's pointless opinion) for them upon Satya's request. Prior to that Kwonchie, Mammo, Rajesh Meher and I came first in the unseeded Open)
So I'm at Premier, deciding between books and listening to Mr. Shanbagh be despondent about why he's shutting down. For the more inquisitive among you, the entire strip from MG Road to Church Street on that side of Museum Road used to be owned by a gentleman who passed away in the mid-nineties. He bequeathed the property to his children, and Premier was in the portion that came to one of his two daughters. She refused to renew his six-yearly-lease in 2003, upon which he negotiated a two year extension. The property owner has given her two choices, of either doubling the rent (from the 15,000 or such to 30,000) which he feels he will be unable to do, or leave the premises, which Shanbagh has consigned himself to. Oh, and he also mentioned that he had started on a rent of Rs 750 way back in the day.
So I'm walking to Koshy's to have me a coffee, struggling with my booty (the new found one), when I chance upon a board (backlit glow-sign) saying 'Book World', on the first floor next to that place which has a Chinese board which 'Shock had much delight reading and explaining to us sometime back. It's like three buildings down the road from the magazine store. So I go in, and here we have a guy who's started off last month, selling (mostly) second-hand books in what I would term a fairly spacious shop with a small collection. The shop would probably be half of Premier is terms of floor area. He probably has a fourth of the number of books Premier has.
My question is, how does he manage? His rent cannot be very different from Mr Shanbagh's. He's selling books too. Are second-hand books are a better proposition for a bookshop? (given the rapid rise of Blossom and Bookworm, it's possible). Is Mr Shanbagh not managing the finances of his store well? (Sourcing? Pricing? Poor Sales?) Why does Premier, who has an firmly established loyal customer base and many well-wishers have to shut down while new book guy can open a shop in pretty much the same area? Is it more than just the difference in profitability between second-hand books and new books? I wonder...