Did you know that it takes more than three-and-a-half years to sell a mere thousand copies of Tamil books?

“Publishing a book is easy. It costs just Rs. 30,000 but selling the copies is next to impossible unless they are by a popular author,” R. Shanmugam of Tamil Nool Veliyeedu Matrum Nool Virpanai Membaattu Kuzhumam, a trust formed recently to support Tamil publishers and publishing.

He said that at least half of the Tamil publishers depend on the State government’s libraries for sale of their books. The libraries have a quota for different kinds of publications and buy up to a thousand copies. Books including novels and popular poetry are sold but people don’t buy books on modern and ancient literature, literary criticism or short story collections.

Orator and writer Suki Sivam said that Tamils by nature are very thrifty and would rather save for the future than buy a book. “Also, Tamil writers sometimes show very little originality. People read other books and reproduce portions in their own style. That will not work. Books of good authors sell well,” he said.

Writer Tirupur Krishnan felt that social respect for authors too has gone down. “There used to be a time when authors like my guru Na. Partharasathy and Ki. Va. Jagannathan used to attract big crowds like political leaders,” he said. “The only way out, as I see it, is for schools and colleges to have libraries; marks must be given for reading books,” Mr. Krishnan added.

In order to promote Tamil publishers and books, the trust has organised an exhibition at Lady Wellingdon Institute of Advanced Study in Education grounds on Kamarajar Salai; at least 80 publishing houses have stalls.

“April 23 is World Book Day; we have organised a special programme for the occasion. More readers would make the day merrier,” said Mr. Shanmugam.

Keerthana Ganesh, a student of class I, who came with her father to pick up educational CDs in Tamil, said she liked learning through CDs.

N. Thulasi of Ayanavaram, a student of History, noted that Tamil novels like Ponniyin Selvan were being offered at a discounted rate. The exhibition is on till April 28.

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