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The Himalayan Times Online

www.thehimalayantimes.com

 

In scholarly pursuits

 

Krita Raut

Kathmandu:

In Nepal the establishment of private universities has made it possible for students to do a variety of courses. The horizon is no more limited to business studies or major English. However, students doing specific courses do have to deal with the scarcity of relevant and quality books along with the sky rocketing prices of those available. Thus, they are left with no other choice but photocopies.

This is where Mandala Book Point comes in. It is a place where students can find the prescribed books, and they need not worry about the hole that will be burnt in their pockets as the books are priced according to the Nepali market.

Man and his books:
Madhav Lal Maharjan has been surrounded by books for most of his life. He worked for Nepal Book sellers where he met Professor Ishwari Lal Shrestha who has been his inspiration. According to Maharjan, no other business is as good as the book business. Thus, he hardly ventured into any other business.

Initially he established the Himalayan Book Sellers at Thamel as a family business. However, after a split in the family, he had to start another business, but he could not think beyond books. So, at the end of 1988, Maharjan established the Mandala Book Point at Kantipath.

Containing the universe:
The choice of the name Mandala (which means universe) was very simple for him as he believes,”Books do not need a passport to travel”.

Keeping in tune with the name, the store encompasses a wide range of books. Be it a child or an avid book reader or the scholarly type, the store has something for everyone. However, Maharjan admitted that the focus is more on books related to academics.

“We want to make books related to academics available to the scholars and students of the related field,” he says.

Deals that work:
Maharjan is well aware of the fact that there are very limited buyers for such kinds of books. Moreover in a country like Nepal, price is a major challenge. However, at Mandala one can find books related to subjects like development studies, Sociology, Anthropology and others at very reasonable prices. This has been made possible by the folks at Mandala being able to strike special deals with the publishers.

The owner, whose sole motive is to make his place a resource centre for academicians, also claims to have some very rare books on his shelves. Books by renowned international writers on issues like conflict, media, military are also available here.

 

No piracy please: 

Maharjan is also the General Secretary of National Book Sellers and Publishers Association. Thus, he is well aware of the two most harmful trends prevalent today — piracy and photocopying.

He says, “We are trying to control the problem in a subtle and indirect way as we cannot stop people from photocopying books.”

In order to deal with these trends, the store has asked publishers to bring out certain books, which are in high demand among Nepali students, at lower prices. But the effort from one side is not enough. “The effort of people involved in book business needs support from readers as well,” opined Maharjan.

Spreading reading culture:

Maharjan strongly believes that the reading habit needs to be promoted in Nepal as it will not only help generate awareness about the piracy in books, but will also boost publication of “books with Nepali context”.

As the saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, there is a certain trend happening in Nepal that is a major encouragement. Mahrajan said there are certain private schools that are giving assignments on books.

Word of mouth:
According to the owner, like most of the organisations of Nepal, his store also doesn’t follow a typical corporate management. For Mandala, the word of mouth from a satisfied customer has been the most effective marketing strategy. However, they have tried their hand in activities like book reviews and launches.

Stating that his yearly sale of the books is sustainable, Maharjan asserts that most of his customers are foreigners. He also takes pride in being able to provide rare books at cheap prices. This probably sets Mandala apart from rest of the Capital’s book stores.

Keeping up with trends:
Running a bookstore has its own set of challenges. One needs to be up to date with all the books that are published within the country as well as abroad. Besides keeping a tab on the trends of the book world internationally via the Internet and newspapers, the people from Mandala are also in touch with publishers on a regular basis.

Then there is the task of knowing the book that is relevant and in demand. They are also required to know which book will be able to capture the readers imagination the most, and select accordingly.

Then there is the time factor, thus getting the book as soon as possible is imperative to survive the market. “A constant two way communication with the publishers is vital,” says Maharjan.

Mandala’s vision:
The trend of gifting books, which is not prevalent in Nepal, needs to gain momentum so that places like Mandala can expand their customer base to include the locals as this will definitely promote the reading habit,” says Maharjan.

He also wants to be able to order books directly from publishers in foreign countries, and also take orders for books related to Nepal from scholars living abroad. However, the lack Open General Licence Law is hindering this. “If our country had this, we would have been able to get relevant and best books for universities in Nepal. It would have been a big blessing for our students.”

Although the store has focused on customers involved in some specific field, it does house other books that cater to demands of other book lovers. The rows and rows of shelves are stacked with books from Enid Blyton to Mario Puzo, from variety of dictionaries to yoga books. People looking for any type of book can pay the store a visit, and chances of coming out empty handed are very less.

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