“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy books and that’s kind of the same thing.” – Anonymous
There will always be something magical about the printed word. Even as iPads and e-readers become the norm, nothing can quite compete with a good old-fashioned book. That’s why, for book lovers, there is no place as captivating as the local book market where one can while away hours browsing and looking for bargains.
Street shopping for books is always engaging – although sometimes it involves digging through endless piles of unreadable tripe to unearth something fun.
Many Indian cities are home to hidden lanes that are little-known treasure chests of books. These streetside markets, with their steals and deals on all kinds of books, are a dream come true for bibliophiles.
Here is a list of 7 book streets across India where, with a little bit of patience and a lot of bargaining, book lovers can pick up their favourite reads!
1. Daryaganj Book Market and Nai Sadak – Delhi
The national capital has two prominent book markets – the Daryaganj book market and Nai Sadak in old Delhi. The Sunday book market at Daryaganj is famous for being a one-stop bazaar for all book lovers. Books of all genres, that too at great prices (though a little bargaining doesn’t hurt), are available to avid bibliophiles. This place was Khushwant Singh’s favourite haunt; a little known fact is that it is still in existence only due to the efforts of the late author. The market was supposed to be shut down as it interrupts the flow of traffic, but Singh personally wrote to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to not close it.
The Nai Sadak market’s attraction is that it is open on all days except Sunday. It has double storey buildings throughout the street and the lower storeys of these buildings house bookshops. This street is mostly known for its large-scale wholesale and retail markets of mainly school and college textbooks.
2. College Street – Kolkata
Kolkata’s historic College Street is India’s largest book market, lending it the endearing nickname Boi Para – Book Town. With an area spanning almost one million square feet, College Street is also the largest secondhand book market in the world. The mile-long avenue is dotted with hundreds of bookstores, big and small, and is also home to many of India’s biggest publishing houses. The bookstores range from standard brick-and-mortar affairs to small makeshift stalls made from bamboo, canvas, or sheets of metal.
College Street’s main draw is that it boasts a collection of almost every single title to ever have been sold in Kolkata. Rare books are sold at dirt cheap prices and extensive bargaining is the order of the day. When perusing the stores at this book market, be sure to browse carefully: you might find a first edition Dickens nestled among the latest Dan Brown thrillers. Remember to drop in at the famed Indian Coffee House for a cup of chai, a samosa, and the weekly gossip.
3. Avenue Road – Bengaluru
A trip to Avenue Road is a rite of passage for Bengaluru students. Walking through this busy street one can find books stacked up to a height of 9 ft. and as far as the eye can see. There are books on every possible subject – from management and medicine to the latest fiction novels. It is a common sight to see bibliophiles leafing through these books and the sellers adroitly finding them the ones they want.
Located close to Chickpet, this perpetually crowded one-way street is packed with heritage buildings, food carts and hundreds of shops selling whole sale stationery, jewellery and textiles. It is also one of the best places in Bengaluru to sell your old textbooks (including the ones you never opened and never plan to read)!
4. Koti and Abids (on Sundays) – Hyderabad
When one talks about book bazaars in Hyderabad, the first name that comes to mind is the Sunday Abids book market. As the shutters go down on shops in Abids on Saturday, the area – the road starting from Taj Mahal Hotel all the way till the post office – gets transformed into a bustling market with roadside vendors selling clothes, fruits and books. While haphazardly stacked tomes nestle alongside paperbacks at the roadside stalls, the main book market can be found inside the nearby complex. Here, one can find various hardbound gems such as the now discontinued Reader’s Digest collectibles, abridged versions of popular classics such as David Copperfield, and more.
If you are specifically looking for academic books, a 10-15 minute drive away from Abids is the Koti book market. At one point, Koti used to be the go-to place for textbooks, and the weekends would be packed with medical and engineering students in search of second-hand versions of their expensive reference books. While the main focus of booksellers in this area was and still is academic books (because of its proximity to colleges), many of the roadside sellers also sell novels, magazines and children’s books today.
5. Moore Market – Chennai
Located near the ever busy Central Railway station in Chennai, Moore Market is the local hot spot for second hand books. This slightly seedy market is packed with several small stores where students and voracious readers can find a mind-boggling collection of books, including classics, comics, fiction, non-fiction, biographies, magazines, college text books, and more.
The bustling market also sells everything from vintage vacuum cleaners and aquariums to antique collector items. Add to that the sellers’ impressive knowledge about the books they sell and you know the reason why Moore Market is the go-to place for Chennai bibliophiles when it comes to bringing in their monthly book haul.
6. Flora Fountain – Mumbai
Flora Fountain at Fort, the heart of Mumbai city, is a book lover’s fantasy and piece of heaven for any bibliophile. Busy booths at this street side market stock second hand books by authors ranging from Vikram Seth to William Shakespeare to Robert Edwards, author of Technical Analysis of Stock Trends. The bookseller’s customers include students searching for used textbooks, commuters looking for literary diversions from their daily routine of train travel and tourists who have read about the famed ‘Book Lane’ in their guidebooks. They all come to buy books, both originals and counterfeits, at 20-60% of the listed publisher’s price.
The moment Churchgate subway ends, the first scene is huge piles of books everywhere. The piles of books are so tall and spacious, that the sellers have created little open fortresses with walls made of books for eager readers to browse. Ranging from rare classics, modern bestsellers, academic texts or even comics dating back decades, Flora Fountains has something for everyone. In fact, if you’re lucky you might even spot some really expensive coffee table books too.
7. Appa Balwant Chowk – Pune
Pune’s Appa Balwant Chowk, or ABC as it is lovingly known, is also an important name in the world of Indian book markets. This book market is regarded as the Mecca for Pune students who are either in search of a lost edition of an academic bestseller or want a new book that has just released.
Other than the book bonanza that greets visitors at Appa Balwant Chowk, the famed cream rolls and puffs sold at the New Poona Bakery are the reason why it’s hard to come out of the market empty handed.
These much loved book markets all over the country are ideal stops to pick up books at bargain prices and rediscover the joy of reading.