The Loot

So I executed the book binge yesterday. In two phases – first at the “main” Landmark at the Forum and then at the “other” Landmark at Swagath Garuda Mall. Technically the binge is incomplete since I still have another Rs.600 to spend but it’s unlikely I’ll be spending that off soon, so for all practical purposes we can take the binge to be complete.

While book-shopping yesterday I was thinking about the various Landmark stores I’ve been to, and how the Landmark at the Forum is the worst of them all, with the one at Spencer’s Plaza in Madras (which I last visited seven years back) coming second. The problem with these two stores is that they are in otherwise popular malls. What this does is that it attracts casual browsers to just check out the mall and makes the browsing experience more painful for the serious browsers.

On the other hand, the Landmark stores in Nungambakkam, Gurgaon (Grand Mall) and Garuda Swagath Mall are either standalone or situated in malls which are otherwise not too popular. And precisely for this reason, the crowd at these stores is significantly superior. You get your space to browse without being asked to make way for passerby, you can actually sit down going through a book and deciding whether to buy it. The store staff, who are much less hassled, are far more courteous and helpful. And if you happen to pick up a conversation with another browser, it is likely to be much better than at the more popular malls.

This presents an interesting problem for the bookshop-owners regarding location. Do they put the bookshop in a popular mall and thus maximize footfalls? Or do they locate their shops in lesser malls or on high streets hoping to attract better “quality” of footfalls which might actually result in better sales? Keeping the shop in a popular mall attracts more casual browsers and if book purchase is an impulse decision, then it is likely to pay off for the store (even there you need to keep in mind that crowded checkout counters can cause the casual browser to drop the book back in the shelf). On the other hand, if they think book buying is a more informed, laborious decision, then they should be locating themselves in places where they won’t get random crowd.

Of course I’m only talking about the browse-and-buy model here and not covering shops such as the erstwhile Premier Bookshop – which rely on customers who know exactly what they want and just ask for it. And of course, for a shop to locate itself in a slightly obscure location it needs to have the “pull” (of a brand name or something) in order to attract customers.

Coming to the loot:

  • The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris
  • The Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux
  • The Emerging Mind, VS Ramachandran
  • The Flight of the Creative Class, Richard Florida
  • Panic, Michael Lewis
  • A Splendid Exchange (How Trade Shaped the World), Willian Bernstein
  • Gang Leader For A Day, Sudhir Venkatesh
  • The Bowler’s Holding the Batsman’s Willey (humorous sporting quotes collection), Geoff Tibballs
  • Musicophilia, Oliver Sachs
  • The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, Edited by Richard Dawkins
  • When Genius Failed (LTCM), Roger Lowenstein
  • Ramayana, a modern rendition, Ramesh Menon
  • The Rise and fall of the third chimpanzee, Jared Diamond
  • Bhairavi, the global impact of indian music, Peter Lavezzoli
  • The Real Price of Everything (collection of 6 economics classics – fundaes by adam smith, david ricardo, etc.), Edited by Michael Lewis
  • Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely
  • The Universal History of Numbers (Part 1 and 2), George Ifrah (didn’t buy part 3 since it seemed full of CS fundaes)
  • A Maidan View, Mihir Bose
  • The States of Indian Cricket, Ramachandra Guha
  • The Bhagavad Gita, Royal Science of God-Realization, Paramahamsa Yogananda
  • Autobiography of a Yogi (Kannada translation), Paramahamsa Yogananda (mom and aunt asked for it)

People, thanks for your recommendations. And once I’m done reading these books, I might be open to lending them (provided I trust you to return them, of course).

Fighter Batsmen and Stud Bowlers

Insight of the day: Batting is inherently fighter and bowling is inherently stud. Of course there are severral stud batsmen (eg. Sehwag) and fighter bowlers (eg. Giles) but if you look at it broadly – a batsman needs to get it right every ball, while a bowler needs only one ball to succeed.

The fundamental idea is that bowling success can be more lumpy than batting success – for example the maximum that a batsman can do if he has one great over is to score 36 runs – whcih in the context of the average game won’t amount to much. However, if a bowler has one great over and picks up six wickets, the impact is tremendous.

The bowler can afford to be much more inconsistent than the batsman. He might get a few balls wrong, but he can suddenly make an impact on the game. For a batsman to have a significant impact, however, he should be able to carry it on for a significant amount of time. An “impulse”¬† (a large force acting for a small time period) will do the batting team no good, while it can be a tremendous boost for the bowling team. On the other hand, steady unimaginative play by the batsman is good enough, while a bowler needs to necessarily show patches of spectacularity to have an impact.

Hence, batting is fighter and bowling is stud.

However, what the advent of one day cricket has done is to invert this. By limiting the number of overs, and creating conditions where a team need not be bowled out, it has turned things upside down. Of course, a stud performance by a bowler (say a hat-trick) can have a significant impact on the game, but inconsistent and wayward bowling is likely to cost the bowling team significantly more than it does in Test cricket.

Similarly, with the game getting shorter, an impulse by the batsman (say a quick 40 by Sehwag) has a much larger impact on the game than it does in Test cricket. And on the other hand, dour batting  Рwhich is so useful in Tests Рmay actually be a liability in ODIs. Similarly the mantra for bowlers has become containment, and thus fighterness in bowlers has a greater impact Рand so people now do respect bowlers who can bowl long spells without taking wickets, but just containing.

Remember that even now, to succeed in Test cricket, you need to have the correct characteristic – Sehwag’s batting might appear stud and risky, but he has the ability to play really long innings which is why he is a really good Test batsman. If he didn’t have the “longevity gene”, he would’ve still remained a one-day wonder. Yes – now teams do pick a fourth bowler to do the “holding role” – keeping one end tight while others attack. Still, the holding guy needs to have some ability to pick up wickets by himself.

Preliminary reading on studs and fighters theory:

Studs and Fighters

Extending the studs and fighters theory