By Vinutha Mallya
Ranked as the sixth-largest publishing industry in the world, India has its entire gamut of publishing activities and services available in-house. An annual output of 90,000 books, with 19,000 publishers publishing them, has put the book market in India in the spotlight over the last few years.
The combined advantage of being the third-largest publisher of books in English and having competitive rates for publishing and printing technologies has made India a formidable player in the international publishing scene. The industry has been boosted by an infusion of capital since the year 2000, when the government of India allowed 100% equity in the publishing industry. The result has been several new opportunities and challenges for the Indian publishing industry.
With literacy rates improving each year (currently the rate is 65% out of a population of 1.1 billion people) and with the expansion of the middle class, Indians are reading more than ever, with a particular focus on skill development and self improvement. Little wonder, then, that management books, cookbooks, self-help, and self-improvement books sold very well in 2009–2010. A recent nationwide survey revealed that one-fourth of the youth population, a staggering figure of 83 million, identify themselves as book readers. Of these, 58% are either at or below university matriculation level, spelling a demand for school and academic books.
Although publishers in India are grappling with the nuances of digital publishing, the buzz on e-publishing is getting louder. Print-on-demand, self-publishing, e-books, apps and enhanced e-books are all underway. Electronic ink devices and tablets for e-books are already available in the market, although indigenous models such as the Wink and Infibeam Pi have an advantage over the others due to their built-in Indian language support. In parallel, online selling is on a sharp upward curve, backed by India having the sixth-largest number of internet users in the world (61.34 million users in 2009) and the second-highest for number of mobile telephone users (670 million in 2010).
Sixty percent of global publishing outsourcing is based in India. The BPO (business process outsourcing) publishing services sector, say analysts at ValueNotes, will reach a value of $1.2 billion (€0.88 billion) in 2012. Indian BPOs offer a range of services, from data conversion, digitization and copy-editing to complete project management. Many major STM publishers, legal publishing firms, magazines, and newspapers, digitize, design, and archive content in India.
Along with online sales mechanisms, the emergence of organised retail in India — growing at 15% per annum — has opened new delivery channels for publishers and wholesalers. Currently, format retail stores account for 7% of book retail sales. Superstores, a.k.a., hypermarkets, are making steady progress into semi-urban and rural India, which will give further thrust to the trend. That books are selling alongside music, movies, lifestyle products, electronic items and the like is good news because it exposes books to non-traditional book buyers.
In the case of global exports of printed and published products, India’s share is 6.46% (compare with China’s 6.75%) according to data released by the non-profit CAPEXIL (Chemical and Allied Export Promotion Council of India). The value of book and publication exports was €267 million in 2009–2010. The Indian printing industry is said to be growing at 12% per annum, equipped with state-of-the-art printing technology. Improvements in infrastructure, support from the government, availability of paper, and delivery infrastructure like ports and roads, as well as increased communication, have all transformed this industry in recent years.
On the content end, book publishing in Indian languages is growing. Whereas, during the late 1990s English-language publishing made up half of the industry, today its share has been reduced to one-third. Translation into and from India’s 24 official languages (including English) is a growing area of interest for publishers like Penguin India, which has a Hindi imprint, Yatra Books.
The government has a major presence in the publishing field. An estimated 70% of textbook publishing in the country is done by the government, which has access to subsidized paper and low overhead costs, although the Federation of Indian Publishers has lobbied for the government to open up this sector of the industry to private publishers. Collaboration and consolidation among publishers is on the rise, as small publishers organize themselves into collectives such as the Independent Publishers’ Distribution Alternative of India; or join hands with larger publishers to market their books, as Zubaan has done with Penguin and Permanent Black with Orient Blackswan.
Issues of piracy and copyright are being addressed through legislation, even as there is now a growing academic interest in the publishing industry in India. At the same time, literature festivals are growing rapidly, with the Jaipur Literature Festival, held each year in January, leading the way. Undoubtedly, India’s book market is expanding and buoyant, and it invites the international community to take part in its growth story.
Vinutha Mallya is Senior Editor of Mapin Publishing, publishers of quality illustrated books on India, based in Ahmedabad (India). She was a Frankfurt Fellow in 2010.
(This article originally appeared in the 2011 Abu Dhabi Book Fair Show Daily in a slightly different form and in Publishing Perspectives London print issue. Download the London Print issue here.)