The Thriving Publishers”: India”s Book Mania

Posted on September 15, 2011 in Specials

By Vaibhav Kathuria:

Media is affecting all frontiers of our life, and its technological horizons are rising every day. Books continue to remain in demand even though e-books are easily available on the internet. India has the maximum youth population in the world. Youth are hungry for knowledge and it seems that the whole nation is sharing this hunger for more and more joyous reading.

The market for books in India is estimated to be at a record 5 million, according to Penguin.

Be it Arundhati Roy for the “God of Small Things”, or Aravind Adiga’s man booker prize winner , “The White Tiger”, globally recognized Indian authors have triggered international sales and selling large volumes in India was not a problem. India is currently the third-largest publisher of English language books in the world after the US and the UK in terms of volume. There are over 17,000 publishers in India who either publish books for the general audience or academic books. It is estimated that over half of these publishers are involved in English-language publishing. Even online selling of books has assumed a large scale now, with publishers giving their advertisements on sites like Flipkart.

A recent order for a book on flipkart, came with an amazing discount, was shipped in no time and no overhead charges were made. This development has only been possible because sellers know that there is a large market for books and they want to sell in large volumes.

There was a misconception that books doing well internationally would do well in the country as well, but statistics have revealed a different story. Over the last six months, the top ten books in this market have largely come from Rupa, one of the oldest Indian publishing companies and one of its largest book distributors. Rupa’s golden goose is Chetan Bhagat, India’s bestselling novelist; his many books, about young, middle-class Indians, are scattered across the top ten, month after month. Till March of this year, no multinational publishing company was in the top ten, apart from Puffin’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid (an international sensation) and Random House India’s two health titles, Rujuta Diwekar’s Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight and Payal Gidwani Tiwari From XL to XS. Rujuta’s second book, published by another Indian publishing company, Westland Books, was also in the top ten (source: bookscan data collector).

Statistics also reconcile the above observation that Indian authors are creating waves in the country as the last Chetan Bhagat title, 2 States: the Story of My Marriage, sold about 500,000 copies in its first year; Rujuta Diwekar’s first diet book, Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight has sold about 200,000 copies in total, and the new one too is flying off the shelves. Payal Gidwani Tiwari’s yoga book has sold more than 40,000 copies in four months. India is now the country that has produced Chetan Bhagat and Rujuta Diwekar as well as Arundhati Roy and Vikram Seth.

The above trend also points to the fact that a larger portion of Indians are wanting to read in English as Bhagat says his key to success was also a huge aspiration for the English language. “This is not like the mature English literature market. Instead it needs English that is highly accessible, simple, and with stories that are still interesting and relevant,” The Hindu quoted Mr. Bhagat as saying. Another interesting observation is that now a greater number of youth want to take writing as career, because it seems more lucrative with more prospects of growth.

According to Simon Littlewood, international director of Random House, publishing in India is so fragmented that talking of a single market makes little sense. “There are all sorts of niches and people doing all sorts of different things in different languages,” he said. Thus, studying the publishing landscape would be a tough task for any research company.

One can only say, India has just witnessed a publishing boom.