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Carpe Librum

  • Published at 05:56 pm February 8th, 2018
  • Last updated at 06:19 pm February 10th, 2018
Carpe Librum
In this modern age, where everyone is used to carrying tablets, such as Kindle, or reading e-books, don’t we miss holding a “real” book and the scent of fresh new pages of original books? This week, let’s take a look at five online bookstores which sell original books, that too in the 21st century. HOOKED ON BOOKS BD Previously known as Hooked On Books, The Zoo Books started its journey on July 19. They’re currently going through some changes right now, including the name of the shop, keeping the future and the larger picture in mind. The people behind this online and social media based bookstore have been avid readers from their childhoods, and they wanted to sell books at decent rates, hence we can say or as they would say it, “it was a project of passion”. “I remember the haul of books every year on my birthday, and cannot compare the joy from that with much else, and I believe all readers are the same!” says Rushnaf Wadud, one of the founding members of The Zoo Books.  The Zoo Books is currently run by the founding members Rushnaf Wadud and Abrar Hoque. Rashnuf usually looks after the aesthetics, communication and planning; while Abrar looks after the procurement and the distribution of the products. Although they’re looking forward to new people coming in very soon to bolster their ranks.
It's a matter of instinct, a decent level of understanding of the target audience, and keeping in touch with the international trend of readership
At present, The Zoo Books supplies books in pre-order medium. Their supplies are based in foreign catalogues, from the United Kingdom and India, and try to keep as minimum a profit from the original price of the books for the sake of the reader base/clientele. “What I can tell you, though, is that we have, if not the best, then close to the best rates in the market for the most premium of books. Also, we hold on to our promise: when you're at the Zoo, all your book dreams will come true! Whatever book one's heart desires, they just have to let us know on our Facebook page, and we will search the ends of the world for it,” claims Rushnaf. Rushnaf believes that, “The Zoo” is curated by people who actually understand books, in a strange time and place in this world, where the importance of a good book is being lost to contents that a too easily satiating, elsewhere. Hence, they are always trying to keep the prices of their books to the most reasonable numbers possible, and till date, they haven't heard of any complaint when it comes to their service and pricing. “The largest Facebook group of readers, named Litmosphere, stands testament to our service, delivery, and prices. Also, we are in the process of bringing in a lot of variety into our collection and curation of books. As mentioned before, we will scourge the earth and find whatever book one might need,” stated Rushnaf. When asked about how they choose which books to include in their collection, Rushnaf said, “It's a matter of instinct, a decent level of understanding of the target audience, and keeping in touch with the international trend of readership. It is a given that when Kazuo Ishiguro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature or Han Kang's book wins the Man Booker, the sales of Remains of the Day or The Vegetarian will go through the roof. That is just one way of choosing which books to bring for pre-order sales. As mentioned, we trust our instinct on this, and our instincts haven't betrayed us yet!” PAPERTREE For PaperTree, it all began with the simple realization that Dhaka doesn’t have a proper book store. “I was looking for books for myself to read during my leisure time, but unfortunately I wasn’t satisfied with the current market. This made me think about the hidden business opportunity and the fact that I should explore it. The cheapest way to start was to go online, hence PaperTree started it’s journey,”  says Barrister Wasiul Haque Chowdhury, the CEO of PaperTree. Currently, they have a team of five people working for them, each specialized person looking after logistics, supply chain, IT, customer relations, branding and marketing and the administrative works. In PaperTree, the prices of the books vary a lot, as they calculate the pricing based on the product purchase cost, shipping cost, and of course, profit. They provide paperbacks at a price range, starting from from Tk600 to Tk1500. Their collection consists of exclusive books and boxed sets, the prices of which can go upto Tk25000. However, they try to bring books which are on demand, within 10-14 days. In the future, they want to connect as many local and international suppliers possible with their venture and increase the supply of books. There is still not any one-stop solution available in the industry for book lovers, so their focus is on creating an e-commerce platform, where customers can come and browse all kinds of books available in the market and avail them in the shortest possible time. PAGES ‘N PROMISES When Nadia Afroze Disha started Pages ‘n Promises in October 2017, she was going through a difficult phase in her life. And while going through her healing process, she thought of doing something that would bring meaning to her life – something that would make others happy and eventually make herself happy. This and of course, her eternal love for books motivated her to open the bookstore. Initially, Nadia’s plans entailed selling both original and locally printed books, and even bookish goodies like themed notebooks, bookmarks, book sleeves and things as such. However, later she focused on selling originals. “I realized after discovering the quality of mass produced books were uncontrollably going down, and that I couldn’t possibly serve my customers well by selling them those prints. I mean it’s a blasphemy to us booklovers to find our precious books in awful conditions. It’s when I realized that I could offer original books to the booklovers at relatively lower prices when compared to the other bookstores,” said Disha. Nadia is the sole owner of the online bookstore, and also the only one to look after everything, except for the delivery services. From taking the orders to managing the financials and making DIY bookmarks to send along with the wrapped products to write invoices, Nadia has been doing everything on her own since last year, seeking help from family members in times of emergencies. When determining the prices of the books, Nadia believes to sell the books at a price she herself would be willing to buy them at. Hence, the notebooks are priced at Tk279-299, sometimes even selling second-hand originals at Tk80. The prices of the brand new originals depend on their prices set on the Amazon sites, offering flat rates so that the customers don’t have to worry about the weight charges and all. At Pages ’n Promises, the customers can pre-order any book they want without having to pay in advance; if customers don’t receive the products within the promised time period, they get discounts and other bookish goodies as gifts. Customers can also keep their books on hold, as long as they want, until they are ready to receive them. And to make it even better for the readers, an EMI facility that enables customers to pay in monthly installments is offered as well. Moreover when there are pre-orders, customers have the liberty to choose anything available on the websites. In the future, Nadia dream of turning the online store into a physical one, that will have branches all over the world. She also aims to promote new local writers, so that both the writers and the readers feel encouraged to explore and enrich our own literary world. EPILOGUE Reading has always been our passion. When other children dreamt of owning an ice cream truck, we dreamt of owning a book store. One of the partners, Samira, went through a very long readers’ block and it was years before she could finish any book. Then, one day she picked up an original book a friend got her. The pure joy of turning good quality pages, made her fall in love with books again. That is when she realized that Nilkhet prints were just not cutting the deal for her anymore. However, there were only a handful of such stores in Bangladesh serving the purpose, but charged extremely high prices. And with a mission to change such high pricing and make the original books more affordable for the mass, they began their journey. Epilogue is currently run by two partners, Nameeb Itmaam and Samira Saba, and both of them work together to come up with promotional ideas. And they also take turns in managing customer services. On the operation side, Samira ensures that the books reach Bangladesh on time, while Nameeb takes care of delivering those books to their loyal customers. As Nameeb and Samira are both avid readers, they often end up stocking books that they have read and loved. They also look at reviews and current trends before confirming orders. “We don’t treat an order as just a transaction. We try to build a relationship with the reader. We pick up a lot from them - be it a good book review, or discovering a genre to read. We try to add a personal touch to each reader we serve,” claims Samira. The price range of the books start from Tk450 for paperbacks to Tk10,000 for the collector’s edition box sets or hardcovers. When selling these books, they take three main factors into account - currency exchange rate, shipping charges from UK/USA to Bangladesh, and the weight of the book. Epilogue has been sourcing books from the USA and the UK, and working on sourcing books from India, to ensure a competitive price for readers. But they don’t want to limit themselves as an online store. Their dream is to start a book café and then build on it. And they also want to keep people engaged with their works, and is creating a dialogue with them.
We don’t treat an order as just a transaction. We try to build a relationship with the reader
BOIYER JAHAJ Five years ago, when online bookselling wasn’t quite happening, Boiyer Jahaj started their online bookstore, after the unavailability of books, especially English novels in our community. Boiyer Jahaj was established as an idea which came out from many night awakening discussions and a dream to build a home based library in 2013. “Our main target was to serve those people who woefully post on Facebook groups for upcoming books or original books,” says Sagar Kanti Deb, one of the founders of Boyier Jahaj. The founders and people working to make this bookstore the best one out there are - Sagar Deb, Arafat Hossain, Wasif E Elahi, Shuk Pakhi, Khan Ruhul Rubel, Zahidul Islam, and Faruque Bashar. They think of it as their passion and not their occupation. “When you love something, sometimes money does not matter. As we give service to the bookworms, we don’t have any price range to take the order. I remember, I’ve purchased a book for a reader which cost me around Tk40000! It was a rare book,” says Sagar. However, they try to sell the books at the lowest prices. With Amazon’s price (pound), they add the shipping cost, and also charge 15% of the total cost (taken by Boiyer Jahaj). They spend this amount (Boiyer Jahaj’s portion) on book related events for the book lovers and humanitarian works. Boiyer Jahaj aims to turn their online bookstore into a huge movement in the future. They might even start selling Bangla books in abroad via ebay, amazon, and so on, trying to reach those international sellers and encourage them to think about Bangladeshi readers.
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