So you think children these days are simply not reading as much as they did in the past? The publishing industry doesn’t seem to think so. They say the recession period saw the sale of children’s books go up and make profits.

Shantanu Duttagupta of Scholastic India Pvt Ltd said: “It’s a misconception that children these days are losing interest in books. If that were true, we wouldn’t have published the number of books that we do every year and wouldn’t have made profits during the recession period last year!“

“We publish around 80 new books every year. Overall, there are roughly around 1,500—2,000 children’s books published every year in India. The children’s books publishing industry is thriving,” Duttagupta told IANS, while arranging a few books at Scholastic India’s stall in the ongoing New Delhi World Book Fair.

Rajesh Kumar Bhagat of Grolier said: “The demand for children’s books is definitely there. We publish educational books and have more than 20 new titles every year.”

The advent of computer games, video games and the like have most youngsters hooked these days. As a result, book reading doesn’t seem to be an apparent hobby children take to — prompting the National Book Trust (NBT) to do a survey.

NBT chairman Bipan Chandra said: “We are doing a national readership survey to find out if kids are actually reading less these days and, if not, what are they reading so that the publishing industry can cater to their needs accordingly.

“If you ask my personal opinion, I don’t think kids are not reading. We have seen a big jump in the number of people registering in our readers club over the last few years,” Chandra told IANS.

According to Duttagupta, one of the main reasons why the children’s book industry remained unaffected during the meltdown was the absence of “fear” in the kids’ minds about money.

“The price of a number of books went up during that period, but kids don’t have the fear psyche like adults do. They don’t think ‘I should save now’; if they like a book, they buy it. That’s one of the main reasons we remained unaffected,” Duttagupta said.

If anything, what has changed is the kind of books that children are reading, he said.

“Books based on latest TV shows like ‘Hannah Montana’, on movies like ‘The Golden Compass’, ‘Ben10’ and the like are very popular and we are catering to that market. Also, there is this book called ‘Captain Underpants’, which has a lot of grammatical errors but kids simply love the humour and the mistakes -- parents, however, discourage their children from reading it,” Duttagupta told IANS.

These may be the books that kids love, but the genre that sells the most is educational reference books.

Anubhav Sharma, a publisher, said: “Reference books in different subjects like English, maths, chemistry and other sciences are the most sought after. Encyclopaedias are also in big demand.”

Duttagupta added: “Reference books do so well because parents buy them for their kids and not necessarily because kids like reading them!”