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INDIAN PUBLISHING ON A FLAT RUN?

AS THE year comes to an end, a troubling thought has been: Is the Indian publishing industry goingThrough a flat phase? Two years ago, Academic books market share was 40%, Children’s books was 30%, Trade publishing was 30%. Today, the K 12 market share is 71%, Higher Education share is 22% and only 7% is the share of the trade market. This means, only school books publishers are thriving, certainly trade publishers are not.

In 2012, experts said, publishing in India is growing at the rate of 15% and plus. If the printing industry is growing at four per cent annually, can the publishing industry be much different? Logically, even a dynamic industry will hover around 3% to 6% when the national growth too is nearabout.Number reports from abroad are startling. They also give us a ‘global’ benchmark. There were about 57,000 copies of Sherlock Holmes books sold in 2009 and about 88,000 in 2010, demand for these more-than-a-hundred-years-old titles keep increasing. Technology only supports demand, for example, by 2011 Lonely Planet sold 120 million books since inception and in early 2014, it had sold around 11 million units of its travel apps. In India, where print runs were 10,000 copies for a popular author, it is 2000 today. Newcomers begin with 500 copies at times. ‘Sales are down’, admit most marketing executives, even those for multinationals. To quote Anil Dharker, Tata Litfest Director, ‘When someone like Shobhaa Debecame a best-selling author, the number of copies of a book sold to achieve that status was around 50,000.... Then the peculiar Indian phenomenon of non-writers happened: people like Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi and others, bankers or managers all of them....’ Print runs went up to 20 lakh. But that phase was over in 2013. Today, a thousand copies of a title sold is ‘great’ for any publisher.

Another foreign data is a dead give away. In 2015, the rights deals signed at the Beijing International Book Fair amounted to 4,721, an 8.6% increase from 2014. Capaxil took just 13 publishers to Beijing. China translates at least five Indian works every year. Do we? In 2016 January, China will be Guest Country at the New Delhi World Book Fair. Half a dozen rights deals for a country of 9,000 odd publishers and 1.2 billion people does not say much for Indian publishing either.

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