Recent news of some well-known international publishers closing their Indian book divisions came as a surprise given that these brands have been in India for more than two decades.
The common theme which seems to drive such decisions by international publishers in India is the state of the Indian book market. From being in a fairly stable state a couple of decades back, the market has now become very fragmented and volatile and less predictable. The primary problems that all publishers face in India are high credit cycles, inventory, returns, advances to authors/royalties for certain genres; distribution systems which are still archaic; dependency on select distributors with a center of gravity at Delhi, to name a few. In addition, India is still a print market with a low penetration of e-books. Here again the cost of paper and printing go up at regular intervals.
All of this has a negative impact on the operations and profitability of a publishing outfit, whether a domestic or an international player.
What could be a solution to this continuing issue?
- A nimbler distribution/logistics set up with a distributed footprint across the country for printing – enabling quicker deliveries and hence reducing the need for the booksellers to maintain inventory.
- Adoption of technology – this will help both the distributors/end customers and the publishers. This adoption of technology will help in gaining a better understanding of what content sells, where and when, thereby enabling publishers in improving their service levels than in we are accustomed today.
- A higher acceptance of digital, i.e., e-books, across the spectrum of readership in the country. This will also be helped by the removal of taxation that has been imposed on e-books in India.
- Publishers understanding the trends and looking at revenue planning in a more structured way. This will help in reducing inventory in the market and ease the pressure on the distribution channel as well.
In conclusion, India continues to be a large and potential high-growth market for years to come. A better alignment between the players in the market, i.e., the publishers, the distribution channel, the government, etc., would help in reducing the problems that plague the industry at this point and make for a healthy and progressive future for the publishing industry in this country.