A cafe, a coffee and a classic

An online group promises to be a one-stop shop to satisfy all your book cravings, for a price: A cup of coffee, and the ability to indulge in some good ol' fashioned trading

If you are a book aficionado, then you would know the pleasure of holding a rare leather-bound copy of a 1893 book with gold plated edges.

Did your heart just skip a beat? The proud owner of this priceless edition of Journal of the Discovery of the Source of Nile (with hand drawn maps) written by John Henning Speke, is 26 year-old Pravin Subramanian.

Bookswappers (From left to right) Deanne D'Souza, Gunjan Gupta,
Siddharth Bannerjee, Vivek Vashishta, Pravin Subramanian, and
Karishma Menon lay their books on the table in Candies last week.
Subramanian's copy of an 1893 leather bound Journal of the
Discovery of the Source of Nile wasn't included in the pile, however

One afternoon, while having a passionate discussion on books with friend and founder of fair trade NGO Shop For Change, Seth Petchers, an idea struck Subramanian, to create a network of book lovers who traded books.
Subramanian started a website SwapBook in June that would provide strangers a platform to meet, share knowledge and exchange or trade books.

"Some people have stacks of books that are waiting to be re-read and then there are people, who either cannot afford those books or don't wish to spend money to read them just once.
So what I do is list the books people have and are willing to share on a Google spreadsheet so that those who find certain books interesting can get in touch with the owners and borrow them," says Subramanian.

Once members set their sights on books of their choice, the exchange happens, usually at meetings that Subramanian organises at least once a month in Prithvi Caf �, Juhu or Candies in Pali Naka, Bandra.

Over several cups of coffee, the meetings begin with a book swap and end in discussions on pretty much all topics under the sun, including, Subramanian points out, vintage cars and government policies.

And you don't need to worry about the handling of your precious books or about the exchange being one-sided. Subramanian's list of rules ensure that the deals are fair.

As per the rules, the owner is free to charge a deposit amount for the book as safekeeping charges (half of the book's cost).
The books have to be returned to the owners within the time frame mentioned by the owners or within 40 days of issue. And in cases where the exchange is one-sided, the person giving the book is entitled to a cup of coffee or a snack or a drink.

If you're still lusting after the rare 1893 version, join the Facebook group ( and try to convince Subramanian to lend you his prized possession. Chances are you will fail, but he may just allow you to admire it for a few hours at one of the meetings.

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