As the fast-expanding online shopping is sounding a death-knell for bookshops across the world, in Tamil publishing online selling is complementing book publishers and booksellers.

“There is no threat from online shopping for a simple reason that there are not many general bookstalls in Tamil Nadu. There are hardly any shop in many districts, and across the State there are five bookstalls selling our publications,” said S. Kannan of Kalachuvadu.

He said online selling could not emerge as a competitor to booksellers as no publisher would come forward to offer more than 30 per cent discount.

“We also print a book in limited numbers. Even a book of an extremely popular author would not run beyond 2000, making it difficult for Tamil publisher to offer more discount,” Mr. Kannan explained.

The cost of production also remains an impediment to publishers printing more books and selling them at an affordable price.

The annual book exhibition in Chennai and in small towns is an avenue of encouragement for booksellers and publishers.

For the first time, to mark the World Book Day, a 10-day exhibition was organised in Chennai, ending on Sunday.

Holding a copy of the Sahitya Akademi winner Joe D’ Cruz’s first novel Aazhi Soozh Ulagu, its publisher Vasantha Kumar of Tamizhini said he wanted to sell the book for half of its prize. “But spiralling product costs will not allow me to sell books at a cheaper price,” he said.

Kizhakku Pathipaham, one of the big publishers in Tamil which runs its own online shopping portal, nhm.in.online, also agreed that the lack of network for delivery and purchase, on a par with many well-known online portals, would continue to be a handicap for Tamil online traders.

“First, we cannot offer the kind of discount Flipkart and Amazon are offering. Second, we don’t have a delivery mechanism to reach the customer as quickly as possible. Tamil book publishing is a small industry, and the number of book shops, probably 250, is disproportionate to the population. Where comes the threat from online,” asked Haran Prasanna of Kizhakku Pathipagam.

K. Chidambaram of udumalai.com agreed that online shopping was unlikely to pose a threat to bookstalls. He, however, pointed out that online gave readers the option to browse.

“But bookstalls will neither grow nor die. We also have a bookstall and the growth remains static,” he said, explaining that whenever there was a book exhibition in a particular town, the order came down. He added that he was planning to offer discount on a regular basis from May.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National