Gautam Padmanabhan of Westland Tata Publications shares insights about the state of the publishing industry and the future of books.
Retailing of books is definitely moving in the direction of online players. While this is certainly impacting the sale of physical books, eBook versions are yet to really take off in India and probably account for not more than two per cent of total sales. However this trend is likely to change with the increase in the number of devices being bought by the consumer be they tablets, dedicated E readers or smart phones. Also the number of players offering eBooks online is on the increase with all key international players entering the Indian market. With an estimated 40-50 per cent of the organised market for physical books moving online, we are seeing a decline in the availability of shelf space even in large book stores who now offer a multiple range of products. This has a negative impact on discovering or establishing new authors as online players are better at pushing up the numbers of bestselling or already established authors. This is the challenge facing publishers today. This will mean that publishers need to rethink their marketing strategies by beginning to use more of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and use non-traditional channels of distribution to reach the end customer.
As sales of eBooks gain strength, the process of publishing will become more democratic with the growth of self-publishing. At the same time, publishers can try out new titles or concepts in the E format and based on the results decide to commit resources for print versions. Bookstores will not disappear but the number of players will reduce. Also bookstores that are more specialist or niche stand a better chance of survival in the long run. Will this mean the disappearance of the chain store? I don’t think so going by the experience of the US. market where Barnes & Noble remains a profitable player with the absence of competition from other chains. In fact, they are in a position to increase market share in a shrinking market for physical books which will mean that they might end up with an overall higher share of the total market than they ever had!
Overall, while publishers face the pain of a market in transition, the future certainly looks bright as the Indian market still has a lot of potential for growth unlike mature markets like the US.