Friday, January 03, 2014

Booking our blessings!

The other day some friends were discussing about books in Twitter. Some said they loathed giving their books away. While others bemoaned the books that were borrowed but never returned. Some others had a list of books they will never part with while amenable to disposing the rest of their collection. 

My basement is full of books too. My wife may take objection that I did not include rest of the house as she is left constantly picking up the books from all places. Books that belong to me and my kids, avid readers all.

I do not like to give away the books for free for I believe anything that is given for free would not be valued. Case in point are the free laptops that the Tamilnadu Government gave the students in that state. They are now available for purchase here -

Compared to my house, my brother's house has a lot more books. Everyone in his household reads and so his house has books everywhere, under every bed, below the stairs and of course in numerous book shelves. I have a great time when I visit him, especially when I fish an unexpected treasure from his collection while hunting for something else. At some point, he decided that there were far too many books for him to manage and wanted to do something about it. What he did then was in line with his personality. He went and bought more books. 

He went to second hand book stores and even a couple of auctions and bought more books. His collection now had books under all subjects - Fiction, Philosophy, Computers, Communism, History, Mystery, et al. He decided to hold a sale. Rather than a garage sale, he wanted to do something different. The first decision was that he would donate the proceeds of the sale to a charity of his choice. 

The next question was where to hold this sale? He had a spark and contacted the company where he used to work. His idea was received well and a friend in the HR department there co-ordinated the event. The event was cleverly planned during the first week of September, soon after the salary was credited in the employees' accounts.  

With an inventory nearing 500 books, the next question was on the pricing. Should they be priced along the lines of how most libraries do - the hardcovers go for a certain price and the paperbacks for a different price? Or should they be sold by weight? Another novel thought caught everyone's fancy. 

A box with a slit was placed at one end of the hall where the books were displayed. The idea was that the employees could choose whatever books they were interested in and decide themselves as to how much they wanted to pay for their choices. They would drop the money in the box and no one but themselves would know of the amount they paid. 

The employees were informed of the event through email detailing how they could choose how much to pay and that the proceeds are for charity. The novel idea created an interest and in much less time than anticipated most of the books were sold. Against an expected collection of Rs.15,000 the sale brought in almost Rs.39,000. My brother topped up and made the total amount to be Rs.40,000 which was then donated to Sambhav Foundation ( 

A few days later, my brother was surprised to receive an email from one of the employees who felt he had not contributed sufficiently during the sale for the books he had taken and wanted to pay more.Talk about reverse of Buyer's remorse. That, truly, was the proof that the event touched the right chords in those who participated. 

If this was the path my brother took, I did my part through a different approach. 

I had penned a book on Tamil grammar which was published in India by New Horizon Media Pvt Ltd. ( Friends, here in the US, requested if I could arrange for the book to be made available for them. 

I had got a shipment of the book and distributed it to them with the request that I would match whatever they contribute for the book and donate it to a charity. All my friends were happy with that plan and contributed generously. 

I added my share and donated an amount of Rs.18,000 to Freedom Trust (, an institution that does yeoman service under the guidance of Dr. S.Sunder. 

We are happy that we did our small part and would be elated if this gives an idea to a few others who are contemplating what to do with their hoard of books. 

PS: This is a translation of the article I wrote in Tamil so that it reaches a larger audience.