Durban's #HashtagBooks believes in maintaining the buzz of reading printed books then passing them on
Getting an education, author Terry Pratchett once wrote, is a bit like getting a communicable sexual disease; it makes you unsuitable for many jobs and then you get the urge to pass it on.
This is true, by extension, of the reading bug. Kiru Naidoo and Avinesh Singh are two chronic carriers who enjoy their condition so much that they launched a store of secondhand books, #HashtagBooks, in the Durban suburb of Reservoir Hills this weekend. Most of their titles are South African.
“Recently a friend lamented the ‘intellectual drought’ in the city,” says Naidoo. “We are determined to quench the thirst for affordable, mostly ‘pre-loved’ books.
“A good many of the 5,000 volumes in the shop come from my personal stash amassed through my travels and trawling charity shops. I find the letting go a trifle difficult but it makes me light up when somebody picks up a title I’m intimately acquainted with.”
Biko jostles for shelf space with Dostoevsky while Adichie looks on with Half of a Yellow Sun.
It seems counterintuitive to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore while many others close due to the rise of online e-book sales. Singh, who works in publishing by day, says they have taken this into account. He takes care of the business side of the venture.
“We think of the shop as a costly way to do a small public service. I will be content if the income meets the expenses.”
Naidoo, a public servant, says they’ve also taken the advice of scholar and rare book dealer, Professor Vishnu Padayachee. “He told us that the high-brow literature is nice to have but it’s the Mills & Boons [romance novels] that pay the rent.” To this end, the business partners have taken care to include other popular genres besides the ones of their core passions.
They themselves shun digital readers, preferring instead “the heady smell of ink and paper,” says Naidoo.
Both are life-long readers. “My siblings and I were always surrounded by books,” says Singh. “That’s why I moved into editing a community newspaper, Ripple Effect, and making a living as a micro-publisher.”
Naidoo’s early encounters with the written word included watching the neighbourhood crossword enthusiasts consult the dictionary in his township home. “My primary school library was about the size of my current bathroom and I read every book there within a year.”
THE BEST OF #HASHTAGBOOKS
Naidoo says they are looking to build the Africana collection. “We were thrilled when professor Vishnu Padayachee dropped a boxful on our doorstep as a gift.”
The Best SA cook book? Zuleikha Mayat’s Indian Delights
The best SA history book? Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like
The oddest book? Taschen’s Panties – A Brief History
The oldest book? Quarter leather-bound Alfred Tennyson’s Poetical Works published by Bernhard Tauchnitz of Leipzig in 1864
The best coffee table book? Govender and Chetty’s Legends of the Tide
Most collectable? Fatima Meer’s Portrait of Indian South Africans, published in 1969. The most recent are the Diaries of a Wimpy Kid.
• This article was originally published in The Times.
• #HashtagBooks is open seven days a week, 10am-5pm. Find them at the Shannon Drive Shopping Centre, Reservoir Hills, Durban.
•This article was originally published in The Times.