It is that time of the year when books on Tenali Rama and Harry Potter take the place of science and maths books. Summer vacation, among many other cheerful things, gives children the freedom and time to read at leisure what they love.

Book publishers too gear up for the brisk season ahead. Activity books such as colouring and handwriting have begun to see a 50 per cent jump in sale, according to C.J. Raja, in charge of designing and production of Apple Publishing International Private Limited.

Bookshops have already stocked children's literature, bringing good news for the distributors of such books. Nearly 4,000 books for children are being shipped every month to Malaysia and Sri Lanka and the next two months would see an increase, says T. Senthil Kumar, proprietor, Rhythm Publishers.

“A majority of books that are shipped are Tamil fiction. The two countries are a major market for Tamil books,” he observes.

While regional book publishers are happy about the growing business, they lament that bookshelves at leading stores are dominated by foreign authors. “Mothers still recommend to their sons and daughters books such as Enid Blyton and Hardy Boys that they have read. Books by Indian authors, irrespective of their content, take only the second place,” Mr. Kumar says.

On the other hand, books based on mythological stories and those with popular characters are rapidly moving off the shelves. Small publishing companies tweak the illustrations to create their own series of Panchatantra tales and Mahabharata and manage to see good business.

City-based storyteller and children's author Jeeva Raghunath reasons out that commercial viability are guaranteed for such books. “We have extremely celebrated authors in our country. And we are rated one of the best based on our content. Contemporary and imaginative stories now only find a niche market. But the customer base, luckily, is growing,” she says.

Concurring with her, C.V. Viswanath, Director, Karadi Tales, says the pressure is now on the publishers to provide quality content for children.

With the onset of vacation, the publishing house, specialising in audio books, has been recording an increase in its online sales. “We have been receiving a good number of enquires about our books. Conscientious parents are particular about the kind of content their children get to read,” he says.

While agreeing that books with glossy covers and attractive packaging tend to draw people, he says only a quality combination of illustration, writing and editing can sustain sales.

“We began our company primarily as a publisher of traditional stories and now moved over to imaginative stories by authors owing to growing demand.”

Tulika Publishers, however, says there is no perceptible growth in the sales of books during vacation. While the sale of children's literature is not time-bound, bookstores give a greater visibility to books by foreign authors, a spokesperson of Tulika said. Picking a shiny picture book of Jataka Tales from Landmark, Priyadarshini Ravi has planned her son's vacation to initiate him into the reading habit.

“He would eventually end up reading foreign authors when he grows up. It is our traditional tales that teach the values. The first book that a kid reads should be Panchatantra.”

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