For real book lovers, it is quite disconcerting to imagine that our future generations would be missing out on reading a book the old-fashioned way. From the smell of a freshly printed bestseller to the yellowing and dog-eared pages of ancestral books at a family library, everything would be lost to the digital age, thanks to e-books. But, here’s a youngster and book lover from Mumbai who wants to ‘save the real book reading experience’ from the invasion of e-books.
Meet Pushpendra Pandya, who as his Twitter handle goes (@PeculiarBlend) has founded this unique startup by the name ‘Crowdsourced Library’ – which is incidentally India’s first crowdsourced library – where books are donated and recirculated through the library.
Interestingly, the idea struck him while on a social experiment –
Once as he walked out of a book-sale a bit disappointed because he didn’t have enough money to buy more books, he started sharing books with friends. In the next few years he met people from varied backgrounds especially senior citizens, singles, college students, single parents, housewives, jobless people, top notch professionals and many more. He found one thing in common – they all craved for an honest company.
While working at Byculla Zoo, he began to experiment by making friends in Rani Baugh zoo with people who used to go for a walk. He mostly met catholic and Zoroastrian seniors and a few young people too, and started giving them newspapers and books at times.
Slowly, he realized that they had started expecting more and were waiting for him to bring newspapers for them. These people were from good and wealthy families but they were lonely and reading made them feel more connected and most of all – happy!
Pushpendra made a pact with myself and thus sowed the seeds of India’s First Crowdsourced Library.
We caught up with Pushpendra to discover more of his unique venture, a typical work day, the challenges faced and the future road map. Here is an edited Q & A describing these:
Vinaya Naidu: How has the response been for Crowdsourced Library (in terms of membership and book donations)?
Pushpendra Pandya: Right now I am extremely busy in collecting books as I have about 35 plus orders with average 40 plus book donations still pending.
As far as membership is concerned we have about 35 members. 250 plus Facebook members (anyone from our branch can request for a book) and reference from friends, media and social networks has been spectacular. Donations coms from a long list – lawyers, one of the vice-president of IPL franchise, political parties and many more.
VN: How does social media help Crowdsourced Library?
PP: Besides a handful of friends who read books, major support we have got from my personal Twitter account @peculiarblend. Within less than 2 months, we got 250 likes on our Facebook page without trying too much. And without doing any paid Facebook ads.
VN: What are the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
PP: Manually carrying kilos of books personally and transporting them in the maddening crowded Virar locals are major challenges. Besides we are trying to tie up with cafes where we can stock up books and reach more people. We have already collaborated with @tweetthebasket The Basket Case, where for one purchase of food packages their customers will get a free membership from our library.
We wish to rent or find a college or place to stock books so that we can have a proper library.
VN: Apart from subscriptions, any ideas to monetize?
PP: Currently stocking books. It’s certainly in the agenda.
VN: What more is in store at the Crowdsourced Library, considering you will have a rich database of book lovers in the city?
PP: (a) We are working on an interface on our website which will enable readers to browse through our collection and choose what’s available.
(b) We are expanding to reach all the cities and villages nationally and slowly but surely plan to go international as well. I am trying to get in touch with overseas PR companies and journalists to get more media coverage for the same.
(c) I am also working on another project which will welcome one of the growing community of India. My research is in process but it has got something that’s related to marriage related issues. That’s all I can reveal as of now.
(d) Plan is also to target vernacular colleges and institutions, where people want to learn English. This will spread awareness about regional language literature too.
(e) I want to educate taxi drivers, postmen, dabbawalas, auto rickshaw drivers and other people from similar working class and I think books can help them to understand many things in detail.
Pushpendra is certainly on a roll with a new definition to crowdsourcing. After Mumbai, it’s Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi and Pune in the pipeline. We wish him the best in his venture and thank him for saving the real book reading experience. Do donate your books or help with storage if books are to be preserved.