Part of the Around the World in 8 Hours virtual conference. Full schedule for today available here.
The next twitter chat of the day focuses on publishing in India with both Thomas Abraham (Managing Director, Hachette India) and Hemali Sodhi (Director of Children’s Content, Penguin India), moderated by Porter Anderson, looking at publishing in one of the world’s fasted growing economies.
The opening question: What do you see as the key trends in India’s industry?
“The market in India is HUGE,” says Thomas. “But for books, that translates more as future potential. While bestsellers grow bigger, what is worrying is that a title has barely 3-4 months of shelf life today.”
But that means that physical bookshops are critical? “Yes,” he says. “Previous frontlist sellers stayed on the shelf for over a year.” Though, “there has been a drop of over 30% in bookstore shelf space because of stores closing. This is a serious contraction. This hasn’t affected publishers too much and the market has held thanks to online compensating for the drop. The market is 55% online ordering of physical books.”
What about ebooks? It’s still “overwhelmingly print. Ebooks constitute about 10% of our sales. Essentially the average ebook contribution remains about 3-5% but publishers with range have a higher percentage, like Hachette. Range is the breadth of the sheer size of the catalogue, the longtail as it were.”
“Ebooks will still take some time to build to comparable (25% plus) levels in the west. I don’t see ebooks topping the 10% contribution is has in the Indian market for the next few years.”
Are ebooks slower because the readers/tablets are less common? “Tablets are common here,” says Thomas,” but the ereading community is smaller because of readership conversion. I predict the future of the ebook is going to be on the smartphone and the phablet, especially in India.”
With a mobile upswing elsewhere, is reading on smartphones popular? Given he says the future is on the phablet, fair to assume yes. “Now to get those with smartphones and phablets to read more! And read more digitally!
“Look at the potential – the number of telephone subscribers in India rose to 970.97m at the end of December 2014.
“I feel standalone ereaders haven’t been popular here but reading apps on phones and tablets have taken off, but I will stick my neck out and say I think nearly 95% of ebook sales must be happening to read on mobiles.”
Turning to Hemali, he asks if the youth sector is as strong in India as in UK/US markets? “The youth are typically a crossover market and buy both YA and adult, but it’s not as big as UK or US. Of course, some titles just cross over like The Fault In Our Stars for example. Interestingly, half of India is under 25, so potential for the youth market is immense.”
In regards to the high adult readership in YA titles, Hemali says “With a really successful title, it breaks age barriers. Harry Potter, The Fault in Our Stars, Wonder have expanded the typical range. The readership of The Fault in Our Stars is between age 9 and above age 40!”
For under 25s, do they read for entertainment or is education the driving force? “Entertainment, infotainment, both. Commercial non-fiction is a big segment, but reading for pleasure is growing. While pleasure reading is more than before, digital distractions rule. @penguinindia has launched esingles.”
Someone asks on their take on growth of self-publishing in India. “Self-publishing is a big market and has grown multifold,” says Hemali. “It’s difficult to get numbers on self-publishing but we do know that #Partridge is building scale. Production and packaging good, editorial subjective.” Porter says it’s interesting to hear this, as technical quality is the problem in UK/US self-publishing. “Surprising to hear. India has high production values, local printers able to offer global standards. Again, not edit quality.”
“It has existed for the past few years but we have seen just a couple of authors break out,” adds Thomas.
How do publishers handle variation in markets across such a large population? “A large proportion of the market is high street, urban India, where dynamics remain the same,” explains Hemali. “Online is now adding others.”
So, more range will be required as online widens audience? “Absolutely. This is already reflecting in new range of publishing.”
“I agree with @hemalisodhi,” says Thomas. “Let’s not forget 100s of languages are spoken in India and we are just talking about English books.”
Next step: Porter will be talking to Amish Tripathi, who has taken Indian publishing by storm through his sci-fi/fantasy twist on Hindu gods.