Genevieve Vieira
3 minute read
6 Feb 2014
6:00 am

Low-budget innovation helps get people reading

Genevieve Vieira

We've all sat through business meetings where the phrase "think out the box" is thrown around.

HONEST LIVING. Philane Dladla reading and reviewing on the corner of Empire and Yale Roads. Pictures: Tebogo Malope.

In most cases, it’s used so often its meaning has grown stale. Whether you are firmly fixed in your “box” or practice lateral thinking daily, it isn’t until someone comes up with a really novel idea that you realise the possibilities are endless.

Philane Dladla, 24, has always had a passion for reading. Growing up he would read anything and everything he could get his hands on. Recei-ving his first stack of books at age nine from the family of a family friend who had died, Dladla was (at the time) limited by his home language, Zulu. Due to the fact that the books were all in English, he chose to forgo toys in order to study the language and subsequently be able to read the books. His childhood was one of constant learning and growth.

Today he proudly reviews and sells books on Empire Road, sharing their contents with passers-by and making a living in a unique way.

“But it’s not about the money,” he says.

“I love getting people addicted to books. It puts a smile on my face whenever I see someone reading. You can tell so much about what’s going on in a person’s life by the books they read. I like to get to know my customers and what they like. When I receive a book, I always have an idea in mind of who I want to sell it to. And you can’t find a book- shop with such good books at the prices I have.”

Dladla, carrying a rucksack filled with novels from every genre and weighing the equivalent of a sack of potatoes, started his business with only a few old books that were sitting on a shelf collecting dust. He asked his buyers to return the books when they were done with them and exchange them for something else. Before he knew it, people were coming with triple the amount of stock, donating them to Dladla’s enterprise.


The young entrepreneur spends most of his day reading, whether at home or sitting on the side of the road.

“When people are watching Generations, I’m reading,” he says.

Placing a copy of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons on his coffee table, he says, “This just doesn’t do it for me. You know Dan Brown, he always writes mystery stories about some or other murder. But I won’t criticise it yet, because I am only on Page 155. Maybe on Page 300 there could be a whole different story.”

Always honest about what he thinks, Dladla comments: “If a book is not good, I will tell you. We are all different, though. I see things my way and you see things your own way, so I will make sure I get the right book for you.”

Pulling a copy of Jodi Picoult’s Second Glance out of his bag, he says, “Now this is a good writer. Remember My Sister’s Keeper? What a story! I always recommend this to mothers. Picoult offers such good parenting advice, you can learn a lot from her.”

Unfortunately Dladla is often hounded by the beggars who occupy the same street corner, with whom he once spent nights smoking drugs and getting high.

“I know what it’s like to wake up every morning not knowing what you are going to eat. These guys have become hostile towards me because they see that I am cleaned up and they are bitter that I’m doing something with my life. They say that if I want them to leave me in peace, I must give them all the money I make.

“I work hard to make friends with my customers. They think of me as a ‘somebody’, and that helps me strive to be a better person. I won’t take advantage of people’s kindness.”