Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Om's 90 per cent fraud

I’m very annoyed by this trick Om Book Shop has been pulling, claiming to offer discounts of up to 90 per cent on some of its titles. Now the discounts on most of the books range between 10 and 20 per cent, and those are all above board. Many other bookstores in Delhi have similar schemes. My problem is with the titles that the shop is claiming to sell at very high discounts, when there’s actually a measure of duplicity involved; customers not in the know are being misled.

What’s happening is this: the supposed 70/80/90 per cent discounts on most of the international titles (certainly the recent ones) are not on the IBH prices but on the rupee equivalents of the pound/dollar prices on the book jackets. So it seems like the discount being offered is a mammoth one whereas actually the discounted price is not all that different from the price you’d pay for the same book at other bookstores offering just 10 per cent discounts.

Example: I picked up Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram from Om today for Rs 350. This, supposedly, is after a 77 per cent discount on the original price, which they claim is Rs 1488. Now as a books journo I can promise you that even when Shantaram had newly arrived in stores a few months ago, in hardback, the IBH price was nowhere near 1400 rupees. What Om has done is to take the pound value (16.99 pounds), convert it into rupees and then magnanimously bestow a “77 per cent discount” on it.

Now, having spleen-vented, let me admit that if I had bought a first-hand copy of Shantaram from anywhere else I probably would have had to shell out at least Rs 50-100 more (which is why I bought it from Om). So strictly speaking, this is in fact the best deal. The problem is one of principle, and of scale. What’s happening here is that people who aren’t regular book-buyers (and therefore unaware of the complete picture) are being fooled into thinking they are getting fantastic deals the likes of which wouldn’t be found anywhere else. That stinks.


  1. :-) So you picked up 'Shantaram ' .. I would like to believe that I was the medium of this book-spirit.. to provoke you into buying it Now...read ..read..read it..soon..!!
    :) Have a good reading..and do let me know ..though Im sure it wont be so soon...

  2. The India Today Book Club has been pulling the exact trick since it started. It offers huge discounts on dollar or pound prices, ignoring that the special Indian rates in the bookshops compare much more favourably.

  3. i never feel sory for people who aren't regular book buyers :)

  4. ...and there's another issue involved, apart from the discount duplicity. One gets the distinct impression that stores such as Crossword or Om are averse to picking up books that aren't discounted by publishers in the first place -- which means that many books, such as contemporary American literary fiction, simply aren't available. Thankfully, Lotus House Books was immune to this practice, as is Fact&Fiction.

  5. Dips: yup, it was high on the buying list already but your comment was a timely reminder.

    Uma: not feeling sorry for non-regular book-buyers (the freaks deserve to think they're getting Da Vinci Code: The Illustrated Version at an 80 per cent discount!), just fretting over the general injustice. I'm sure I'll get over it soon :)

    Prufrock Two: Know what you mean. Fact & Fiction has Modern Library publications that aren't easily available anywhere else. I've picked up a lot of American humour titles from there - by S J Perelman, Ian Frazier, Steve Martin etc.

  6. May I recommend Midlands at Aurobindo Place market? Open 7 days a week with all books perennially discounted on the Indian MRP. Also some great sales - best deal to be had for new books outside of book warehouses at Daryaganj - maybe even better...

  7. Thanks Ishqa, but of course Midlands is where I've been doing my book-buying for several years now. I even prefer it to the Khan Market shops which have a cult following among the lit fraternity.

    Om was very close to my house, that's why I wnet there on a lazy day. Plus I wouldn't get Shantaram for Rs 350 even at Midlands.

  8. Hey I bought Shantaram in Bangalore for some 700 odd bucks. I am a non resident Bangalorean, please let me know where i can pick up books at good prices in Bangalore.

    Interesting book, I am not able separate fact from fiction for instance I am pretty sure there was no Bombay Mafia don by the name of Khader Khan.

  9. It is business and they are businessmen. Accept it and move on. Nothing out of principle here.