“Mother is dead today. Or maybe yesterday, I’m not sure,” read the opening lines of The Stranger by Albert Camus. I stood between a stack of books, my eyes sparkling with an overwhelming urge to buy this 123-page masterpiece. I felt the thick, rough pages with my fingertips and turned them over. BDT 848, says the price tag. I gently put the book back in its place and hurried out of the store.
There is no one to blame here. Books with an initial value of $ 10 to $ 15 end up costing around 1000 BDT by the time they hit our bookstores. In a culture where you can buy the locally printed version of John Green’s The Anthropocene Reviewed for 200 taka at stationery stores, even before the original worth more than BDT 1100 goes on sale, it’s enough natural for people to approach the cheapest and most accessible. option.
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Another choice might be to download the pdf from the “free e-book libraries”. However, with the idea that books are cheaper or practically free in digital form comes with a serious offense that has been normalized and practiced in our society with convenience: piracy.
Access to pirated books and PDFs aside, being a bookworm in our country is a rather exorbitant delicacy. The majority of our younger generation start earning money once they enter college, before relying on parental income, pocket money and personal savings. Even at university, keeping other expenses in mind, one can only spend a portion of one’s limited income on books. With original books being so expensive, purchasing locally printed copies is more of a necessity than a matter of choice.
A more serious problem arises with regard to academic books. Original academic books are much more expensive and inaccessible. In order to import educational items, domestic importers must pay several fees, including import duties, postage, customs clearance and shipping (C&F) agent fees, letter of credit fees ( LC), freight cost, etc. An engineering student needs about six to eight books per semester. Each of them costing thousands, buying original books and international journals for educational purposes is often not an option. Our academia is therefore heavily dependent on the culture of consuming local newsprint, blank prints, used books and pirated copies.
Buying used and original books from Nilkhet or different Facebook pages can turn out to be quite a handy life hack. Old books are cheaper and more enjoyable to read than local prints. While this is a way around hacking, it is usually not a workable solution. Our government has already guaranteed free textbooks for elementary and secondary school students, which deserves a pat on the back. Reducing duties on imported books and subsidizing the sector could help build a piracy-free book culture.
As recreational reading drops to its lowest point, our current readership desperately needs their books to be more accessible to the less privileged.
Remind Ifti to be quieter at firstname.lastname@example.org