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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Public libraries in India

We don't have public libraries in India to speak of. Is a library a public good? While a book is clearly rival, it seems that a library is something that's non-rival and needn't be excludable.

I was intrigued by this article by Manoj Sharma which describes the rise of for-profit libraries in India which are using the Internet well. A library is certainly excludable. He describes two firms doing this -- and

I tried to look at both collections and they were not that impressive. It was perhaps too much to expect them to hold certain dry non-fiction books, so I looked for fiction.

bookmeabook had no Alan Furst, no Raymond Chandler.

friendsofbooks had one book by Alan Furst, and no Raymond Chandler.

So I guess this is a way to make progress on access to books, but so far, these offerings are not impressive.


  1. Do these online libraries match upto ?

    Any first hand experiences...

  2. Interesting post. Though I think you are mistaken when you say that there are no Public Libraries in India. See Information Literacy and Public Libraries for a list of number of public libraries. However, dont know of the quality of the Libraries, though most host several old manuscripts and books that you probably wouldn't find anywhere. I don't think that people here in India read as much in terms of non-fiction (reading for recreation is a dying habit globally anyway), so naturally in the absence of demand for a good, quality of the supply suffers.

  3. Recently, I joined Shelfari:
    For something like this to be successful, it needs to attain critical mass.

    I have been looking for a place to read and conduct research in Mumbai. Existing facilities in the city are ill-equipped.
    Even tried to look, unsuccessfully, for a reading club in Mumbai.

  4. I feel lucky to be in Bangalore for this precise reason...
    1. Indian Institute of World Culture for books on socio/phil/psych + magazines like economist/time/newsweek + most comics are available for free reading in the lib OR can be borrowed for a very nominal amt (I think arnd Rs. 200 odd per year!! - dont remember now!)
    2. eloor lib - latest fiction/non fiction... will probably not find alan furst/raymond chandler but they will get it if requested... has an awesome collection.. have heard that eloor is there is several cities in south india...
    3. I can go to iimb library/statistical institute lib by paying temporary library charges... Its neither cheap nor too costly.. but, it will serve the purpose if I want to research on finance or economy etc...

    When I was in high school(late 90s), I used to frequent city centre libraries in Bangalore... they used to have those awesome engineering books (russian/old british) they were really good... there used to be old fiction also... books are not maintained well... (only regret) but it was nice...

    forgot, there is also british library in bangalore... they have good british collection...

    I have heard similar things abt calcutta...

    I am sure there are options in delhi which has to be explored...

    easylib, one of the first online libs has 4-5 books by hurst but none by chandler...

  5. adding to my prev comment:
    there are books like flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, raymond arons sociology books, geertz interpretation of cultures, dixits foreign policy makers in india... etc... available in eloor...

    I find this to be a little outside of normal reading and hence not in many ppls interest... I am lucky to find such books in a lib...

    there are other good non fiction books - business... but many good libraries have it these days...

  6. I dont know how to say this...
    for most books I want to buy, I go to landmark( or order from firstandsecond generally also has non INR books which are costly but serves the purpose of getting the book... Your book on Indias financial markets is not available at either of these places!!! totally surprising!!! I see it flipkart and all... probably I need to change my ordering sytle but still curious... Wasn't the book targetted for the Indian market?? Is there an Indian edition??

  7. There is an Indian edition, but I seem to think that Elsevier did a somewhat small print run and it's sold out with many distributors.

  8. oh! just got to know from my classmate that your book was the textbook for 'financial markets' elective at my alma mater...

    I wish I had taken the course now... anyways, I will get hold of the book now from my friend.. thanks..

  9. The British Council has excellent libraries in Calcutta and Madras. You are possibly overlooking the role of pavement based second-hand book dealers who perform an admirable role in making good books available at affordable prices.

    There are also several local "circulating libraries" that lend out magazines which are maybe slightly outdated (1/2 months) for reasonable prices.

  10. The Tamilnadu govt. is currently constructing a grand library at the heart of chennai costing 100cr. Compared to the public libraries(free access) in chennai the British library is too costly.

  11. Also consider KopyKitab Which is India's first online e-book portal, it helps students a lot when they get study material at a reasonable cost


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