Global publishers eye India to beat recession

April 24th, 2009 - 12:42 pm ICT by IANS  

London, April 24 (IANS) Recession-hit readers in the US and Britain are spending less and less on books, forcing English language publishers to eye overseas markets, India in particular, to stay afloat.
While the US and Britain are still the largest markets for English language publishers, growth has petered out. The US market was worth an estimated $24.3 billion in 2008 while sales in Britain were about three billion pounds. But that year, book sales by volume in the US dropped six percent compared to 2007, while in value terms the drop was 2.5 percent. In Britain, the volume was down by four percent and value by six percent.

In contrast, the demand for English language books is booming in the third largest market - India, which has been growing at about 10 percent a year for several years.

Research by UK Trade & Investment (UKT&I), which used the London Book Fair this month to encourage British publishers to export more, and the Publishers Association estimates that the market was worth about 1.25 billion in 2007, with publishers estimating that English language books contributed about half that amount, reports the Guardian.

In comparison, the Chinese market was worth about seven billion pounds in 2007, but its English language market is smaller than India’s and British exports to the country are worth only about 10 million pounds.

No wonder India - with an estimated 350 million people who know English - spells good news for publishers hit hard by the financial crisis.

Random House, for example, has said the record-breaking first print run of 6.5 million copies of “The Lost Symbol”, Dan Brown’s sequel to “The Da Vinci Code”, will include over half a million for overseas territories, including India and South Africa, a record for a new fiction title.

“India is an incredible growth market at the moment,” Alistair Burtenshaw, the exhibition director of the London Book Fair, was quoted as saying.

“It provides fascinating business opportunities in almost all sectors, and that’s absolutely the case in publishing.”

The Guardian noted that the London Book Fair coincided with a growing push by Western publishers to ramp up their operations in India.

Later this month Hachette is joining the ranks of Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House by publishing its first book in India - “My Friend Sancho” by Amit Varma.

Publishers are also noticing a new mainstream literary culture that has transformed book-reading from the preserve of an educated elite into a cerebral leisure activity for India’s emerging chattering classes, the Guardian report noted.

“It’s not that people have suddenly got interested in books and reading, it’s that the nature of the interest is coming more to resemble the nature of the interest you might see at Cheltenham, Oxford or Hay-on-Wye book festivals,” Simon Littlewood, international director at Random House, was quoted as saying.

“There’s a curiosity about authors and the authorial process, building on an established bedrock of literacy and literary interest.”

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