In India your second-hand book-store is usually the local bookseller on the pavement. He/She who has paid off the beat cops and has set up shop from gathering books and magazines from local sources – such as – housewives who want to get rid of their husband’s racy novels (or their own Mills and Boon Romances). On the other side of said book “donator” are those, who due to a voracious reading capacity have had to let go of some much loved and read books to make space for newer ones. In the Indian middle-class home, bookshelves are in-demand-limited-real-estate.
For me, my first buy was in South Extension, in between a Levis and a jewellery store, where siad book-hawker had a side business of renting out fashion magazines by the hour and day. Little did I know it back then, but this was pure entrepreneurship on display!
On that sunny afternoon in June, enjoying strolling the markets with mates during our Summer holidays, days before school reopened, the book that caught my attention was Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange”. With the multi-coloured cover, and graphic representation of a face with only one eye – I was hooked. I had no idea about the context of the book, author, or story, I was simply a 14 year old intrigued by the cover-art. Hooked by the visual spectacle of it. Today as I sit with this weathered copy and revisit Alex and his droogs, there is only one thought that is running through my mind, and that is a gratefulness towards cover-art, that without fails has time and again brought me to books, authors and stories that might have remained undiscovered if not for the visual ambassador that the book-cover truly is! In a world where technology has taken the physical and converted it into the digital, the book cover has become more of an advertisement than before, as it competes on a global scale, across mediums of consumption, from hard-covers to iBooks, Kindle and SmartPhones, the book-cover continues to make the sell!