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Indian publishing industry needs mechanism for co-existence of printed and e-books

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NEW DELHI: Renowned author and Rajya Sabha member Pavan K. Varma, who is also the cultural adviser to the Bihar Chief Minister, has urged the publishing industry to provide the choice of printed books and e-books to its readers.

A mechanism should be formulated where printed books and e-books could co-exist to serve readers across all genres, he suggested at the ‘PubliCon 2014: Publishing across Platforms’ conference organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Varma said the digital format of books is becoming popular amongst youngsters but still people who belonged to the era of printed books prefer hardbound. The older generation finds it more fulfilling to read a printed book rather than on kindle. However, he added that refusing technology will only get these readers marginalised. Varma advised that one should adopt or reject a change only based on rationality. E-books are proving to be a rational change as they have trouble-free accessibility, easier storage and lesser cost as compared to the traditional form of books.

He said the number of books digitally processed at present is small and the revenue model still shows the printed books on top, but this situation is bound to change. With development in technology, more authors and readers are now switching to the digital format as it makes the product globally available.

Department of Land Resources secretary  and author Vandana Kumari Jena said digital publishing is a new facet and the future belongs to it. The profile of both authors and readers has changed drastically over the years, and the young generation has taken to digital publishing quite positively. Numerous bookstores have closed over the past few years, which show the growing impact of digital publishing. However, it will take time to replace the hardbound books completely with digital books on kindle, I-pad and nook in India as the country still has a fair majority who love the look and feel of a printed book. 

Underlining some of the advantages of e-book, Jena said fonts of digital content can be re-sized according to a person’s comfort level. For instance, if a person is visually impaired then s/he could easily increase the font to make the text readable. No additional lighting is needed to read digital books as the electronic devices have inbuilt illumination.

She said digital publishing has even opened doors for self-publishers who were looked down upon earlier. However, the emerging e-books also have some challenges such as fear of plagiarism and piracy, which may deter authors to use the medium.   

FICCI publishing committee chairperson and director of Zubaan Urvashi Butalia said publishing is not limited to printed books, its scope has grown by leaps and bound. The electronic gadgets such as cellphones, laptops, tablets and I-pads have come to the fore as new platforms for information dissemination and books have also found a place.

She said digital publishing has also brought new models of book distribution and new platforms to read and interact with the book. Digital has enabled the creative industries, publishing services, technological innovations and the internet revolution, to become an integral part of the publishing process. Further, existence of numerous publishing apps clearly indicates that publishing is increasingly moving towards a mobile platform.

Speaking on the role of publishers, FICCI publishing committee co-chairman and adviser to Reed Elsevier India Rohit Kumar said a publisher is responsible for taking the thoughts of authors to the world and evolving technology and digitisation has emerged as a potent tool in this regard. In the fast changing world of book publishing, the onus is on a publisher now to adopt and adapt to the demands of both the authors and readers.

Later in his plenary keynote address, Green Gold Animation (Creator of ‘Chhota Bheem’) founder and CEO Rajiv Chilaka said content rules in the publishing industry and one must embrace the technological changes to sustain and survive in the long run. He added that publishers need to keep pace with today’s consumer and plan for tomorrow.

Chilaka stated that digital publishing has emerged as one of the best options for small publishers who want to enter the market as it involves lower start-up cost. Besides, the content never goes out of stock and is available globally with just a click of a button. Also, digital books have easier access as they can be downloaded or purchased from the confines of one’s home and additional costs such as shipping is not associated with it as in case of printed books.

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