Hindi children’s books losing out to glossy English

February 25th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by admin  

By Shweta Thakur
New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) Old Hindi favourites like “Chandamama” and “Nandan” are no longer attracting children to bookshops, instead Harry Potter is! Hindi storybooks are fast losing out to the more colourful and well-packaged English ones. “The circulation of Hindi story books was 15 percent less in 2007 than in 2006,” Manoj Sharma of Kitabghar Prakashan told IANS, portraying a bleak scenario.

The country’s children’s book market - both Hindi and English - is around Rs.700 million. “But if we talk about sales ratio, then it is 30:70 percent, for Hindi and English respectively,” he said.

Apart from the colour and presentation of English books, which appeal to kids, parents are also keen that their children read English rather than Hindi, contributing to the decreasing sales.

“English books are more colourful and have more pictures. Hence they attract kids and edge out Hindi children’s books,” Ashok Gupta, director of Pustak Mahal Publishers, told IANS.

“With Indian society turning more competitive, parents want their kids to have a greater command over English. The desire of parents is forcing kids to read English books,” he added.

“My mother asks me to read ‘Children’s World’ and the English version of ‘Champak’. She says it will improve my English,” said eight-year-old Pratibha Singh of Ramjas School.

“I find English books more interesting because they are colourful and have so many pictures,” said six-year-old Jasmine.

And because of waning popularity, the number of Hindi storybooks published is also on the downswing.

According to publishers, children’s books in English hitting the stalls are five times more than Hindi.

“There is a huge gap in the number of books published in Hindi and English. If 5,000 new children’s titles are published in English, only 1,000 Hindi titles hit the stands in a year,” said Ajay Mago, publisher of Om Books International.

“It is unfortunate that fewer books are published in our mother tongue. I think no other country is faring so badly in books in their local language in comparison to English,” Mago said.

Another factor, said Gupta, is the advent of the Internet, video games and cartoon channels, which is leading to children losing interest in reading altogether.

Mago also blamed booksellers for not merchandising Hindi children’s fiction properly.

“Walk into any book shop, you will find that owners are not keen on dedicating shelves to Hindi books. One can easily find 80 percent of the shelves given to English books,” Mago claimed.

Girish Goel, sales manager of Hind Pocket Books, said that Hindi publishers needed to be more market friendly and produce quality material to regain customers.

“If Hindi book publishers improve the quality of titles, add more pictures, colour and publish them in varied sizes, I am sure the demand would go up,” Goel said.

“Some publishers have started doing that, and it will help if others follow suit,” he said, stressing that the “huge hard-core Hindi readership is still untapped”.

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