By Casey Monteiro
A book delivered to you via a bicycle! That’s what you will get to see if you are lucky enough to catch 25-year old Elijah De Souza pedal his way past you on his cycle early morning to deliver books to readers. The founder of Anjuna-based The Booktique Goa, a book lending library, Elijah says this venture was started in 2018, while he was still pursuing his studies in Agriculture at Don Bosco College of Agriculture, Sulcorna, Quepem.
“I started this library with my friend, Emmanuel Souza. I always wanted to start a library. I had lots of books at home because I read a lot and I would keep telling my friends that I want to start a library,” says Elijah.
But, these conversations remained just conversations. One day, while returning home from college – it’s an almost five-hour journey from his college in South Goa to his home in Anjuna – he was bored in the bus, and called up Emmanuel and said, “Let’s start the library!”
“And he (Emmanuel) was like ‘Let’s start next week.’ We soon started a cataloguing the books we both had, and prepared a PDF file. Back then, we had about 300 books to begin with. We brought second hand books from different places to add to our collection. We uploaded the pdf file on social media, and then, those interested in reading a book from the list got in touch with us,” continues Elijah.
After Emmanuel relocated abroad for further studies, it is Elijah who has been holding fort of all the operations at Booktique.
BOOKS AT YOUR DOORSTEP
The delivery of books to the doorstep has been the motto of Booktique since inception. “I get my exercise as well,” says Elijah, an endurance cyclist with a personal best of 600 km in 39 hours 45 minutes. “I am passionate about books and cycling and I combine both through Booktique,” he says cheerfully.
This mode not only helps to offset possible fuel costs and reduces the carbon footprint, but also gives the reader timely access to one’s choice of book.
“You can get to read a book by ordering it with a click, and we try to deliver the book to you in 48 hours,” says Elijah. People find it difficult to access libraries in today’s times, elucidates Elijah and that’s where Booktique fills the lacuna.
He elaborates, “It’s not a slow world like before. Today’s scenario is … one leaves home for work to return only in the evening at a time when libraries are closed by then. Add to that getting stuck in traffic, finding parking, all this leads to wastage of time and people end up not going to a library at all.”
The farthest Elijah has cycled to deliver a book has been from Anjuna to Siridao (in Tiswadi) which is almost 27 km, one way, he says adding, “I don't plan to go farther than that!”
DEALING WITH COMPETITION
In times of e-books and Kindle, how does Booktique sustain? Are online options for reading and dissemination of books a competition? There's nothing that compares to the touch and feel of a book when you hold it, surely.
“I know a lot of people who still love reading from a book in their hands,” says Elijah, adding how options such as Kindle can work out to be quite budget unfriendly in the long run.
Booktique offers subscription plans – one month, three months, six months and a year – which interested readers can choose from, he informs. All this works out pretty well for us, he says. Elijah goes on to add how Booktique offers readers options to read so many books at an affordable price. “I remember, when I was studying, how I would order books online, which used to work out to be quite expensive for a student to afford,” he remarks.
So far, the client base of Booktique has been mostly non-Goans, who have settled in Goa or visit the state, reveals Elijah.
Elijah says the collection of books has increased to over three thousand. The future plan is to work on building the section comprising children's books.
“I have already started on the children's section, and we have been getting a good response. That apart, we plan to open a physical space for Booktique in Anjuna, where readers can browse through books and read them in a quiet setting. We have a farm space already and we will try to incorporate that ambience in Booktique,” he concludes.
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