The shop was a repository of peculiar and forgotten books; for Indology it was unrivaled. Grammars of lost languages, sheet music for rare instruments, translations of scriptures of which the original had been lost. Books found nowhere else. Books no one knew existed.
He liked to stand around and watch the scholars be amazed. From Europe or America, on the sabbatical they received every 17 years, they staggered through the door dusty and panicked, reeling from an accident involving a cycle rickshaw and a leper. This was usual. The scholars would ask a question of the manager—he was an insignificant man, just a cipher through whom universal knowledge flowed. The scholars did not expect an answer really; they were just showing off how much they knew about the very most arcane branches of Indology.
The owner would excuse himself, step behind a flimsy curtain into the back room. In five minutes he'd return, smelling vaguely of smoke, holding a hardcover printed sometime in the Sixties in, say, Bhubaneshwar. A book whose contents, despite the cheap printing and poor typesetting, would have saved the poor scholar 17 years of research.
Time and again, he watched scholars rush out the door, clutching their discovery, certain that fame would now be theirs. Sure enough, they’d probably receive their doctorate with distinction, would likely even publish a book with a university press in a gorgeous typeface on acid-free paper. A book that would, in time, return here.
The scholars must know the statistic; they've forgotten, momentarily, in their excitement.
The number of people actually interested in the world is constantly diminishing and may now number less than 500, many of whom are illiterate, living in war-torn areas, or under the age of 5.
The chance for meaningful fame is thus nonexistent.
What do people want?
People want to be thinner.