Monday, October 17, 2005

Information Inequality

The only successful bookshops I've seen in developing countries, have been run by expats.
Even then, most are not successful in the long term.

However, the expat will usually have a good idea of which books are good - which are not, and what a fair trade in value is.

I've been ploughing through books very fast recently - it's all i've really been doing, and luckily, this town is touristy enough to have a fair number of bookshops... alas, they're all run by Indians, and so they don't quite pick their stock - it's more a question of them getting whatever tourists bring in to trade/sell..

So this afternoon, I traded in Anne Kareina (Tolstoy), an awful new John Grisham book, and another awful book by the guy who wrote the Bourne Identity - and after 20 mins of haggling, managed to get 3 better books... Usually, they either want a 2-1 trade (you give them 2, they give you one), or a 1-1 trade if you pay cash in addition.

However, their only metric for judging books, alas, is the publishing date, the price on the cover, and the thickness of the book. Tolstoy is old, and cost me 75 cents in the states.. but on the cover, it was 20 bucks, and so I managed to use it to my advantage.

On one hand, I should feel guilty, right? I obviously pulled the wool over their eyes, and while not robbing them of anything - didn't give them the deal that they would normally get.

However.... it's all about availability of information. I have a much truer idea of the value of those books (and can judge them by more than their thickness). Likewise, when I go shopping for clothes and such, I have no real idea as to the production cost.

Information Inequality is a terrible thing... But in this case, I came out on top.

I'm sure Karma will kick in at some point.. but for now, I've got 3 more books to plough through.

Off to find some lentils.. mmmm

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