Starting this week, we will introduce a new feature in the MyKitaab Podcast. Every Wednesday, I will cover three news stories that are related to book publishing in India, and will also try and provide some analysis and background information related to that story. For now, I am calling this MyKitaab News and Analysis Cast. The top three stories for this week’s episode are:
- Online registration for ISBN
- Failed Experiment: Translating Indian Books into Multiple Foreign Languages
- Trends in Print Book Sales in India
Listen To The Podcast Episode By Clicking Below
Format of This Podcast
Every week, I will talk about three news stories, and give background information related to the story that may not be familiar to some of the listeners. I will also provide my take on the news- I am not an expert on book publishing in India, but I can look at data or the situation and draw conclusions that may not be let’ say typical in nature. Moreover, by having conversations with over Fifty authors and publishers, I have developed a good understanding of publishing in India, and would like to share the same with the listeners.
Stories this week Related to Publishing
www.isbn.gov.in is the new website, where Indian Citizens and persons of Indian origin can apply for ISBN for free. Yes, FREE.
My Take on the News story
The website is broken, and I had a terrible time trying to apply for an ISBN. Here a youtube video made by me where I show exactly what is wrong with the website.
I happen to know a couple of folks at National Informatics Center, who have developed this website, and have reached out to them with my feedback. Let us hope that the website becomes operational soon.
A Government of India funded program that was conceived by a group of movers and shakers in India’s book publishing industry has come to a halt. According to this story in Scroll.in, Government’s apathy and lack of funds have resulted in translating only three books over six years. The original plan was to translate Indian classics and acclaimed books into seven or eight languages including Spanish and English.
My Take on the news story
Did the promoters of the idea have a clearer vision when they came up with the idea? Did they have a marketing and distribution plan in mind? Did they do any test marketing? Why would anybody want to read say Portugese Translation of a book written in Tamil? Secondly, aiming to translate books into eight languages is ambitious. Start with a MVP (minimal viable product) and build on that. In this case, translate into two or three international languages, and see what the response is. Then, iterate and optimize. Finally, the idea of relying on Government funding is ridiculous. Think Cost Center versus Revenue Center. Had the proposal offered a commercial reasoning, the response might have been different.
Additional details at: Scroll.in article on book translations in India
III. Trends in Bestselling Print Books in India
- Bestselling books are often steeply discounted
Large book distributors have been discounting books by a median discount of 33 percent, with some books getting sold for as high as a 66 percent discount. That is, a book that is listed for 300 Rupees or US $ 4.5 is sold for one third of that price.
- Backlists Dominate the Bestseller List
On an average, a book that has featured on the bestseller list was published over 3 years ago. Some of the books on this list go as far back as 1990s. (for example, novels by Jeffery Archer)It could be because of the discounting, or a marketing push by the sellers, or simply familiarity with the title and the author. There was only one new book in that list- Ashwin Sanghi’s Sialkot Saga– that was published in April 2016.
- Bundling or Box Sets works for Books by Foreign Authors
Particularly true for box sets of books by George R R Martin. The price conscious Indian buyer is still paying more than the average cost of a standalone book, but as a bundle, they get 8 or even 12 books for Rs.2,500 or nearly 36 Dollars.
- Science Fiction and Fantasy is Dominated by International Authors
There was only one Indian Author in the top 10 list for Science Fiction and Fantasy! Andy Weir’s The Martian was ranked # 11.
- Romance books are dominated by Indian Authors
The authors are typically male, and they are mostly under 30.Many books are co-authored by an established male author in Romance genre and an upcoming female author in this genre.
On a side note, I would like to see this pattern in the competitive sports world, say Mixed Doubles in Tennis. What would ATP or the audience think? Maybe readers are too gullible to be taken for a ride by publishers.
- Nonfiction bestseller list is actually dominated by Textbooks
From exams for Railways to Banks to Civil Services, you will find all sorts of study guides. And Norman Lewis’ Word Power Made Easy still ranks in the top 10. The under 25 generation that prefers to write “Where R U” and “hav u been ther?” Continues to amaze me: they probably want to look cool carrying the Norman Lewis book around.
That’s it for this week.
Why am I starting this News and Analysis Format?
There are three main reasons why I thought of doing so.
First of all, I received a feedback from more than one listener that a three times a week podcast on book publishing in India is an overkill for the Indian listeners. Satya, a former guest on the podcast, and Nandita, who emailed me this feedback.I took that feedback in stride, and thought that this was a perfect opportunity to introduce this News and Analysis Cast.
Secondly, I was listening to the Sell More Books Show Podcast a few days ago. This podcast has a news and analysis segment, and the hosts Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen brought up a point that many of the influencers in the book publishing space, particularly independent publishing in North America and UK, listen to the news segment. The curated content is very much appreciated. I had a conversation with Jim Kukral before launching MyKitaab Podcast, and his advice was super valuable. I thought it was time to learn and adapt from the best.
Finally, I anyways spend time reading up on news related to publishing every week, and I also tweet many of the stories that I think are interesting. So I thought, why not extend the idea further?