eBook market in India

I have been getting increasingly curious about the size of the eBook market in India. More than the size of the ebook market, I’m also keen on learning about whether Indian readers are latching on to the new trend of using electronic reading devices such as Kindle, iPad and notebooks. And the interest in the ebook market isn’t an overnight development. There’s a reason behind it.

It’s been just over a year since my book Beyond The MBA Hype was published. It’s done surprisingly well considering the niche market it is aimed at. So my publishers approached me for launching an ebook version. I recently visited the head office of HarperCollins for the first time. Interestingly, I have never met the folks at HarperCollins – my editor and the marketing team – who’ve been instrumental in editing, polishing and distributing the book across India (and also other South Asian countries).

Coming back to the ebook story, several traditional publishers in India are exploring the relatively nascent market in India for ebooks.

The big number thrown around in publishing related articles is that India has the third biggest market for books. Probably that’s true, but you and I wouldn’t be spending all this time writing and reading blogs about how to get published in India, why publishers are rejecting more books than accepting them, when new authors will get their first break, why so many published authors are complaining that their books aren’t selling after the ordeal they’ve gone through to write a book and get published, yada yada.

Now, if these are the concerns for the traditional publishing industry, then what can we expect from the fledgling ebook industry?

There’s also the concern that the growth in ebooks will eat into the share of printed books.

Kapish Mehra, the big boss at Rupa (one of the biggest Indian publishers) disagrees. He thinks ebooks will create a new market and expand the current market. Several other movers and shakers from the Indian publishing industry subscribe to that notion. Sage Publications, Penguin, Pustak Mahal and HarperCollins are all betting heavily on the ebook market in India.

Newsweek, the big player in the international publishing world, will be adopting a digital-only model from next year. So, no more print copies. Which also means several employees will be laid off in the U.S. and internationally, as Tina Brown (editor-in-chief of Newsweek) anticipates.

But there are naysayers as well. I read another article (can’t find the link to that survey) that said a huge proportion (two-thirds, if I can recall) of the ebook readers are discarded in the west after using it once. Ouch! The reasons? The ebook reader was a gift from someone who assumed the reader would appreciate it, or the readers’ interest waned rapidly, or the new learning curve of accessing, paying for and downloading the ebooks and building a collection on the ebook reader was enough to put off the reader.

A regular book costs 100-300 rupees. An ebook for the same book would require an expensive new toy (i.e. the ebook reader like Kindle, iPad) that changes the equation. Plus the ebook version might be slightly cheaper than the paper version, but it isn’t free. So you have the cost of the book + the cost of the device to consider.

The techno savvy generation might tilt the scales over the longer timeframe. But in a price sensitive market such as India where piracy is rampant (a ‘cheap’ 100 rupee also doesn’t get spared, as pirates sell the same for cheaper at 50-60 rupees on the street), I think the charm of the hardcopy version will only increase.

All in all, there’s more of speculation and crystal ball gazing at this stage than real, concrete numbers.

In due course of time, irrespective of the figures and statistics related to the size of the ebook market in India, I want to to release an ebook in India and abroad. I see it as an opportunity to reach out to a bigger audience. Before that happens, I need to sort out a few other technical and logistical issues around it.

But I’m keen to know your view. Are you thinking of launching an ebook? What are the reasons that make the option attractive?

8 Comments

  1. R-A-J says:

    Methinks its the seeming ease of getting published(misplaced maybe).. I’m told that many self publishing sites proffer a presence on the e-side as a part of the package should you choose to publish with them – “will give u a window on flipkart”, they say… sounds much more responsive compared to publishers who are fabled to take months to even say a ‘no’…

    Like you mention, it may just be a fad for which we still don’t have the numbers to back it but conceptually, its seems like a winner.

    I’d be very curious to see if the numbers do back this so-called new sensation.

    fc*klove

  2. Sameer says:

    True, Raj. The ease of getting published is a BIG draw.

    It also means there’s a humongous amount of low-quality, unedited cr*p floating out there in the ebook space. That’s makes it really tough for the good authors who have something valuable to offer.

    And I don’t think it’s a passing fad. It’ll be around for longer than that, but in countries like India, at least in the near term (i.e. when your book will be out) the impact will be lesser.

  3. Rohan says:

    Raj, there are many publishers who do not take much time in considering your proposal. The problem is we only want to go to the ones we have heard about in media. But there a dozen more publishing house who are good and efficient in their work and also have a wide marketability of their products. Contact this publisher here – [Promotional part edited out]

  4. Vikram says:

    When we get our book published through a traditional publisher, does the publisher publish the ebook version of it as well? Or do we have to contact a separate ebook publisher for that? Does the hardcopy publisher have copyrights over the ebook publisher as well or are these terms that are negotiated in the contract?

  5. @Vikram: Most traditional & vanity publishers would try to include the ebook rights in the publishing contract.

    Reason being, it’s much easier (hardly any effort actually) for them to publish ebooks than printed copies. However, that doesn’t mean you have no options.

    You can choose not to sell the ebook rights.

    The copyright remains with the author. You are only selling the right to republish in various forms and media.

  6. Sanchita Sinha says:

    Hi Sameer,

    This is Sanchita. I find your blog very interesting to catch on latest updates on publishing. It would be great if you could help us find somebody who can talk about the digital publishing world, the children ebook scenario in India and what all is needed to prepare an ebook contract right from scratch and the kind of changes (for ebook rights) that are to be done in the existing book contracts.

    Also, if somebody could come to our organisation and to whom we can consult to.

    Thanks

    Sanchita

  7. Abhishek says:

    Can I publish my book first on Kindle Direct Publishing and then go to traditional publishers for paperback format? Or is it that if I publish my book on Kindle then I loose my right to sell the book via offline mode (traditional publishers)?

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