GANDHI KANNADHASAN wears many hats. Before we proceed further, some of you might have guessed who he is. If not, take a clue in his second name. He is the head of Kannadhasan Pathipagam, a publishing firm and also president, The Booksellers' and Publishers' Association of South India (BAPASI). He is a lawyer as well. He talks to Karthik Madhavan about the trends of the Tamil publishing industry and its future.
ACCORDING TO Gandhi Kannadhasan, son of legendry Tamil poet Kannadhasan, these are good times for the Tamil publishing industry, which at present has a turnover of Rs. 75 crore. His prediction is the industry will make around Rs. 100 to Rs. 150 crore by 2010. He says this optimism is because the Tamil publishers have not targeted even 1 per cent of the State's population. "Of the population of six crore, the 1,500 Tamil publishers together don't have six lakh readers. But we are getting more. With increasing awareness, people look more for books, be it of any genre, and this is where we have the future." But hasn't television and Internet invasion affected reading habits? Mr. Kannadhasan doesn't think so. "Today more people buy books, especially youth. They are looking for books on self-improvement, leaders' biographies and computer books in Tamil. Where television and Internet have affected sales is novels."
This, he says, is because television soaps have replaced people's need for reading novels to get entertained. In other categories the sales has only increased. "Today self-improvement books are a big hit. I get 90 per cent of my revenue from that genre. Earlier these books were only translations of self-improvement celebrities in the West, but today we have Hindu Sadhus jumping on the bandwagon, and that has helped us." On book design and layout boosting sales, he has no second opinion. "Today's Tamil books are on a par with international books. The front cover, page design, font and package - all have undergone a sea change, thanks to the advent of computers," he says.
The new approach has also helped sell old books. "Today we sell works of yester year giants, thanks to design improvement. This is only because of attractive design and layout." Another reason for increased sales, according to him, is introduction of omnibus editions. "Though borrowed from western publishers, it has worked well here," he adds.
How about international publishers in Tamil market? Mr. Kannadhasan says it is not far off. "Already they are into the market. Random House is here. We have tied up with Tata McGraw-Hill to market their Tamil books. More will come in the future because Tamil market is huge, bigger than the English market in India."