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?