Bangalore Book Festival

So today I made my way to Gayatri Vihar in the Palace Grounds to visit the Bangalore Book Festival, on its last day. It was interesting, though a bit crowded (what would you expect on the last day of an exhibition? and that too, when it’s a Sunday?). I didn’t buy much (just picked up two books) given the massive unread pile that lies at home. However, there was much scope for pertinent observations. Like I always do when I have a large number of unrelated pertinent observations, I’ll write this in bullet point form.

  • There were some 200 stalls. Actually, there might have been more. I didn’t keep count, despite the stalls having been numbered. Yeah, you can say that I wasn’t very observant.
  • All the major bookshops in Bangalore barring the multicity ones had set up shop there. I don’t really know what they were doing there. Or were they just trying to capture the market that only buys in fairs? Or did they set up stall there just to advertise themselves?
  • It seems like a lot of shops were trying to use the fair to get rid of inventory they wanted to discard. All they had to do was to stack all of this on one table and put a common price tag (say Rs. 50) on every book in that collection, and it was enough to draw insane crowds
  • One interesting stall at the fair had been set up by an online self-publishing company. I’ll probably check them out sometime next year when I might want to publish a blook. Seems like an interesting business model they’ve got. Print on demand!
  • I also met the guys at the fair. Once again, they were there for advertising themselves. Need to check them out sometime. Given the kind of books I buy, I think online is the best place to get long tail stuff.
  • There was an incredibly large number of islamic publishing houses at the fair! And have you guys seen the “want qur an? call 98xxxxxxxx for free copy” hoardings all over the city? Wonder why the Bajrang Dal doesn’t target those
  • There was large vernacular presence at the fair. I remember reading in the papers that there was a quota for Kannada publishers, but there was reasonable presence for other languages also, like Gult, Tam, Mellu, Hindi
  • A large number of stalls were ideology driven. Publishing houses attached to cults had set up stalls, probably to further the cause of their own cult. So there was an ISKCON stall, a Ramakrishna Mutt stall, a Ramana Maharshi stall, etc.
  • Attendance at most of these niche stalls was quite thin, as people mostly crowded the stalls being run by bookstores in order to hunt for bargains. Attendance was also mostly thin at publisher-run stalls, making me wonder why most of these people had bothered to come to the fair at all.
  • I saw one awesomely funny banner at the place. It was by “Dr Partha Bagchi, the world leader in stammering for last 20 years” or some such thing. Was too lazy to pull out my phone and click pic. But it was a masterpiece of a banner
  • Another interesting ideological publisher there was “Leftword books”. Their two sales reps were in kurtas and carrying jholas (ok I made the latter part up). And they were sellling all sorts of left-wing books. Wonder who funds them! And they were also selling posters of Che for 10 bucks each
  • I wonder what impact this fair will have on bookstores in Bangalore in the next few days. Or probably it was mostly the non-regular book buyers who did business at the fair and so the regulars will be back at their favourite shops tomorrow.

I bought two books. Vedam Jaishankar’s Casting A Spell: A history of Karnataka cricket (I got it at Rs. 200, as opposed to a list price of Rs 500) and Ravi Vasudevan’s “Making Meaning in Indian Cinema”.

Arranged Scissors 9 – Cost Benefit Analysis

Neha, also known as MotherJane, writes in her blog:

…I do not believe in love. Partners offer solutions to everyday issues like running a house, satisfying needs and filling in the blanks. However they come at a cost – often too high to bother. Still we go ahead and do the trade – its just what we do. In our lives friends become the people we talk and listen to, partners become people we are forced to talk and listen to, so that we can have everything else they offer. If you think about it, your relationship is already transactional. If calling it love makes easier on your conscience, I won’t hold you back.

I was trying to figure out how it all fits in with the arranged scissors process. And every time the answer came out that the Arranged Scissors process is fairly irrational.Mainly because of the short time for decision. A few basic checks are made, obvious misfits are checked for, and things get “done”.

The biggest cost of getting married (which Neha doesn’t mention) is the opportunity cost of the option of getting married to any of the other women in this world apart from your wife. Divorce is messy and expensive (in more ways than one), and hence once you have hitched yourself to someone, this opportunity cost immediately kicks in.

Later in her post, Neha talks about the “friends-with-benefits” model, but the problem with that is that it doesn’t help propagate your genes. It is tough to raise kids in that kind of an environment, and considering that the purpose of life is to procreate (this is the general case; i konw you may be an exception so don’t shout at me for this) the friends-with-benefits model is not stable. The reason the world has settled down into a model of bilateral commitment is to optimize the costs and benefits of propagating genes.

So if you want to propagate your genes (again, I’m not sure if you want to. If you don’t, I’d recommend you to settle down with the FWB model – but then it’s easier to find one stable counterparty rather than several FWBs, so you’d rather get married) you need to get into a bilateral commitment deal. And these deals are mutually exclusive so you need to realize that when you get into one, you will be foregoing the option of getting into any other.

There are several other costs and benefits when it comes to the marriage thing – there will be lifestyle changes, you get “tied down”, you need to take on responsibility, share duties and all that, but in my humble  (and unmarried) opinion, the biggest cost is the opportunity cost.

I say this quite often (and this reminds me, I have a paper to write – which I’ve postponed for nine months now) but I think outside of the financial world, option value is generally underrated (even in finance options are more often than not undervalued since the most common pricing formula ignores fat tails). And in settling for a Common Minimum Programme in the arranged marriage market, people severely underestimate the value of the option value of the rest of the world.

So the next time you want to propose to someone, or want to answer “the question” in the affirmative, make sure you do the following:

  • Make a list of all the people in the world belonging to the opposite sex (gays feel free to generalize this)
  • Evaluate the option of marrying them. Your job will be quite easy because with respect to most people, either you don’t want to marry them or you know that the chance of them marrying you is so infinitesimally small that the option value is negligible
  • I’m sure there will be a number of peopl ewho you prefer to the person you are proposing to/saying yes to. If you think there is a nonzero chance of them saying yes to you, ask them. Rejection is cheaper than a lifetime of guilt
  • Once all the options have been evaluated, and an additional buffer term added to account for all the people you don’t know yet, you know the full value of the opportunity cost. Then add up the other costs and benefits, and then make your decision.

Typically to know the other costs and benefits of the person that you are currently evaluating, you need to know them rather well. Yes, you can draw a sample and estimate the population based on that, but the cost of a type 1 error (error of commission) is very high. So make sure you collect enough data. To collect enough data, make sure you give yourself enough time.

Ok now I don’t know the point of this post. I don’t even konw if it fits into the arranged scissors series, but I think I’ll let it stay. Changing the title is too messy. I think I wrote this to put fundaes about opportunity cost. Maybe I had something else in mind when I thought up this post, but then subsequently forgot the contents and remembered only the outline. In any case, I’ll stop here. Before that I’ll tell you for one last time that you need to keep track of option value, and opportunity cost.