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Potter’s swan song is taking the global literary world by storm. Is the Indian publishing Industry turning green? 4Ps B&M searches for the magic wand!

For John, getting up early in the morning is an ordeal. If work or play require him to be up before the crack of dawn, he doesn’t sleep at all. July 20 is one such day in the life of John, a merchandising manager at one of the leading bookstores in the country. Midnight will mark the launch of the seventh and the last book of the Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Bookstores all over the country will pull up their shutters as early as 5 a.m. in the morning, only to be greeted by droves of eager fans waiting to lay their hands on the book before it’s ‘sold-out’. “This Potter mania is for real,” the Store Manager of Landmark bookstore tells 4Ps B&M. “There were dozens of fans waiting outside the store last time (when the sixth book was launched in July 2005) and this time around, we are expecting a larger crowd,” he says.

Heavy discounts, attractive offers and thousands of pre-bookings mark the grand finale of the Harry Potter series in the country like elsewhere. Penguin India which is distributing the book in the country is expecting to sell 260,000 copies of the book, the number is up by 100,000 this time. Retailers are not only ready with various allures for book-lovers but are also going the extra mile to set the mood through various events, promotions and are decking up their stores with Harry Potter paraphernalia.

Never before has this Bollywood and cricket crazy nation witnessed such love for a book. Looking at Pottermania in the country, a patriot is compelled to ask – if Potter can do it, why can’t an Indian book? “There is no hit formula in books. You never know what may click. Books like Harry Potter come once in a while,” offers Sanjoy Roy, Marketing Manager, Cambridge University Press. Neat! But, the patriot is not convinced. India is taking huge strides globally, the Sensex is zooming northward, and Indian companies are on a global acquisition spree. But, the cover of the Indian book publishing industry still sports the look of a cottage industry. Why?

Industry estimates place Indian book publishing industry’s size at Rs.70-80 billion, which is growing annually by 20%. However, no one has accurate figures. The annual report of PricewaterhouseCoopers on Media and Entertainment sector gives book publishing a miss. “We don’t do much on Indian book publishing industry as it is highly unorganised,” says a media analyst with PwC. However, their global report on publishing has a chapter on India which puts the industry’s worth in India at $1 billion, which includes all kinds of books, B2B publishing and also outsourcing and e-publishing. The global book publishing industry is worth $121 billion and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 3.6%. “However, out of this $1 billion, retail forms a very small part. The per capita spending of India on books is as low as $1,” she adds.

But, the country’s low spending on books does not signal that India is bereft of good writers. The names might be handful but Salman Rushdie, Mulk Raj Anand, Vikram Seth, Khushwant Singh, Arundhati Roy, Amitava Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri are some Indian writers writing in English who have made the country proud by winning international acclaim. But with a sale of 5,000 copies considered a bestseller here, Indian publishing industry has a long way to go. Agrees S.C. Sethi, President of Federation of Publishers’ and Booksellers Association of India as he points out, “We have excellent fiction writers in the country. But the industry is facing many challenges. Piracy is one. Then the Indian market is not very big, therefore not much is spent on advertising. A Penguin India will only print 1,000-2,000 copies of any book, but a publisher in America will print over 100,000 copies, as the market is huge and people are into the reading habit. In India, people are more into buying chocolates and sweetmeats instead.”

While piracy continues to be one of the biggest growth dampeners, many also complain of the high prices that both Indian and foreign books demand. Moreover, the industry is highly fragmented with only a few players dominating it. Forget acquisitions abroad, Indian publishers are not able to even compete with foreign players like Penguin on the home turf. But, all is not dark. There are silver linings which promise a better future. Says, P. Sukumar, CEO, HarperCollins Publishers India, “When I joined the industry eight years back, Penguin controlled 90% of the market. Today, publishers like us are equal contenders and even homegrowns like Rupa are doing extremely well.” Sukumar also hints about the increase in demand. “Earlier, if a book sold 3,000 copies it was considered a bestseller, today most books comfortably cross the 5,000 mark; and now 8,000 copies is generally considered a mark of a bestseller,” he adds.

The retail boom in the country is also set to give major impetus to the industry, doing away with the ‘display’ problem that the industry faces. And as far as the nation’s reading habits are considered: Here’s hoping that Harry, the wizard kid leaves behind a long-lasting spell to cure that!

Edit bureau:
Surabhi Agarwal

For Complete IIPM Article, Click on IIPM Article

Source : IIPM Editorial, 2008

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