Online book stores are doing roaring business catering to the youth

The thing about the era is that the market in collusion with changing technology appropriates what one reads or writes.

As it further alienates serious literature and academic discourse from the masses, it has fortuitously given rise to a democratisation of the whole process of reading and writing, redefining the identities of the author and the reader. Only, a vast majority of today’s readers/writers are scrawlers/skimmers, bent on salvaging their social relevance by the ‘letter’.

If anything, the globalised world has witnessed a staggered migration of readers from the once-hallowed libraries to online bookstores, e-libraries, online magazines, e-readers and tablets.

While escalating book sales figures need not necessarily point to a growth in readership or a trend as to what readers lap up, a certain inclination of the city reader is always palpable from these market charts.

Evidently, the city’s careerist and employable youth fall for light fiction churned out by the likes of Chetan Bhagat or Ranvir Pal Singh.

There’s a whole new category called ‘metro reads’, tailor-made for metro teens, says V.V. Madhu, Senior Sales Manager, Penguin India.

Self-help books and those dwelling on emerging market trends have takers aplenty. Serious non-fiction books, like those on international polity, defence strategies or social anthropology, are doing just about average. Interestingly, the resurgent book market falls back heavily on the glitz and style of new-age children’s books, which go off stands like hotcakes.

Market observers hint at a declining interest in Harry Potter, as it has been amply substituted by the Percy Jackson series and the Wimpy Kid series.

There’s still a miniscule minority plodding along with time-tested classics and renowned Indian authors. “Online purchase of books spurred by the availability of a variety of titles, heavy discounts and buyer’s convenience is a trend that has come to stay,” maintains Mr. Madhu.

Tom J. Mangatt, chief executive officer of www.indulekha.biz, an online book store, categorically states that every book, irrespective of its author, content or popularity, has a buyer.

“Online buyers straddle all varieties. Still, books that are talked about in online forums are the most sought-after. Benyamin’s ‘Adujeevitham’ (Goat life), to name one such. Blogging, tweeting, Facebook discussions and online book-buying are all interlinked. While seasoned authors like M.T. Vasudevan Nair continue to hold sway over generations of readers, online buying shows a fluctuating trend. On an average, however, 5,000 books are sold by us every month,” he says.

The profile of online book buyers is equally intriguing. Professionals, well-employed youth, college students, civil servants, journalists, IT employees and diasporic population prefer buying books on the Internet. While some surf in random, there are those who doggedly browse for an obscure book of their fervent choice, adds Mr. Mangatt.

The urban middle-class youth, points out Tomy Antony, Regional Manager of DC Books, have no doubt settled for light fiction. There is considerable demand for select biographies too, like Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Indications are that there is a new-found interest among people in popular science and tomes dissecting the human brain and memory. Neo-spiritual books and children’s comics also do well. Every passing year sees a 50 per cent increase in the sale of books over the previous year,” he says.

Besides online stores like indulekha.biz or puzha.com selling popular Malayalam titles, the Internet is the abode of communes like the Book Republic, a collective of booklovers who publish and distribute books mostly from blogs.

Their third volume, an anthology of poems by Jyonavan, a popular blogger who died prematurely, has been announced now.

Like bloggers with constant followership, online magazines also boast a permanent and dedicated readership.

Technology plays a key role in fashioning readers’ taste, as indicated by the growing sale of tablets pre-loaded with e-readers and i-books.

“With the price of tablets hovering around Rs 7,000, they have come to dominate the digital market. The State sells about 1,000 tablets every month and the figures are set to skyrocket in the next few months,” says a digital shop owner.