Books & periodicals are not store items!!!

Kailash Balani, Managing Director, Balani Group and Past President, FPBAI and member of the FICCI publishing committee, shares his views on the purchase of books through tenders or quotations by libraries.

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Books are not store items as per the Ministry of Finance vide their O.M.F.23(7) E11(A)/83 New Delhi Dated 7.2.1984 which made changes in the General Financial Rules which dispense with the necessity to call for tenders or quotations in respect of purchase of books, periodicals, etc. This notification was addressed to all the Ministries/Departments of the Government of India and copies endorsed to Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Union Public Service Commission and others highlighting the amendment to rules 99 and 116 of the General Financial Rules, 1963 (Third Edition) exclusion of books,publications and periodicals, etc. from the definition of “Stores.”

Purchase of books via tenders/quotations

As per the Federation of Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Associations In India, the above notification still holds good as it has not been repealed or replaced by any other amendment. Then why tenders/quotations for books?

However, unfortunately, very few libraries follow this notification and the rest purchase books via tenders/quotations with all kinds of terms and conditions like 100% supply which is impossible to comply with, unless the list of books to be purchased has been shared with a (chosen) supplier two months in advance so that the supplier has all the necessary information like price of books, availability, even procure books in advance without having an order, etc. and then that supplier can easily quote prices within 10-12 days time given for submission of tender/quote and make 100% supply within stipulated time.

Recently there was a tender for supply of books in various foreign languages like German,Italian, Persian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, French, Italian, and in Hindi and English to be quoted within 12 days for all 3869 titles failing which the bidder will be disqualified, and if approved the supply must be 100% and the supply should be made within four weeks. In order to quote, supplier must have knowledge of so many foreign languages, if not,find a translator, find those publishers, request for quote, submit quote in 12 days, make advance payment to so many foreign publishers from his pocket and then wait for months to receive payment. I don’t think there is any bookseller/supplier on this planet who knows so many languages, has so much money to invest and then wait for his payment from the institution. It’s impossible to quote and supply in such a short time. I wrote to the VC of that institution that I have spent 46 years in publishing and I am unable to quote because of terms which are unrealistic and cannot be complied with

Responsible purchase needed

Librarians are not authorised to purchase any books in most of the institutions. I don’t know why? The auditors are creating terms of supply without understanding the dynamics of book purchases/supplies. Because of the tenders, the bid with high discount is awarded and the customer ends up getting books which may be irrelevant, books that are available with supplier are dumped in the libraries. Sadly, the libraries are just asking for ‘higher discounts’ and ‘not good books’. The librarians only look at the year of publication. They don’t want to purchase books which are 2-3 years old. According to them, such books are outdated. If that is the case, then they should get rid of all those books from their holdings which are more than 2-3 years old, why keep such old books in libraries? It is the faculty who should decide what books are to be purchased or recommended for library and not go by the year of publication. The person selecting the books should be responsible for the purchase.

Vendor system does not always work

Nowadays it has become a norm by the libraries to appoint a Vendor(s) for supply of books. They demand huge security amounts as deposit. By doing this, they are killing small booksellers and publishers as they cannot afford to pay huge security amounts. Hence their valuable content never reaches libraries and it discourages them to publish and distribute books in their local markets.

They invite their approved vendors to display books at their campuses, and then after books have been selected for purchase, they re-negotiate for higher discount. At that moment booksellers/publishers have no choice but to succumb and agree to offer higher discount because they don’t want to take back books for which they have spent money on transport, packaging cost, heavy display charges to libraries, stay in a hotel for 3-4 days, travel cost etc. This is so unfair. Who are they trying to impress? Don’t they realise that higher discounts lead to high price of books?

Bookshops suffer too…

Already many brick and mortar shops have been shut down due to online bookstores. Many more will get shut because of the way books are being purchased. Cost of getting books recommended and then supply is becoming very time consuming and expensive and unaffordable.

Soon, the libraries will have no choice but to buy books only from the online book stores as the book suppliers/publishers will not be able to provide good service and also to provide high discounts, security amounts, deliver books to their doorstep, etc. and also pay 5%+ import duty. Ultimately libraries will end up paying more, as online booksellers/publishers may not offer higher discount as offered to libraries otherwise, because the suppliers will have to pay 15-20% to Amazon or Flipkart etc. for using their services. But definitely libraries would get good books of their choice if they allow their faculties to purchase books online. With this the librarians should be happy as they will not have to answer their auditors, no price proof, no exchange rate hassle for both, the librarian and for the online bookstore supplier. Free for all!

The need of the hour is a good “National Book Promotion Policy” to frame uniform book purchase rules, look after the interests of the libraries, publishers and the book suppliers. Without this policy, the cut-n-paste publishers will make hay while the sun shines!

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