By Saket Suman,
New Delhi : After an unprecedented boom in India’s publishing industry during the past two decades, many insiders are fearful that it has now reached its saturation point. But the boom is not over, according to David Davidar, who maintains that India is “one of the most exciting book markets in the world” and its future is one of hopes.
Davidar, who was hired by the legendary Peter Mayer as one of the founder members of Penguin India way back in 1985 and ventured out to lay the foundations of Aleph Book Company some seven years ago, asserted that “there is no place to go but up” for India’s books market. Why?
“Because there is quite a lot of rubbish that is published, and as many subject areas remain unexplored, there is plenty of room for good, relevant books,” Davidar told IANS in an interview.
The acclaimed publisher explained that although India publishes nearly 20,000 new books in the English language every year, many of these books are “meretricious or just downright bad.”
Davidar contrasts this unfortunate state of affairs to the fact that books will always have “a central place” in the lives of the thinking and aware individuals. And even as the consumer now has access to “more published information and entertainment than at any time in human history”, much of it (especially that found in digital form on the Internet and social media) is “of little value”, he noted.
“There will, therefore, always be room for thoughtful, stylish, innovative, insightful books (in whatever format you choose to read or access them – I am platform agnostic) for those who want to go beyond the commonplace, banal and mediocre,” he pointed out.
But the Indian book market, like anywhere else in the world, has its own hurdles and Davidar identified a small readership base, not enough retail outlets, not enough marketing avenues, low prices, high discounts, high material costs, high returns, customers who do not pay on time, customers who default on payments and so on and so forth as the major challenges faced by publishers in contemporary scenario. But there is hope as this market is always expanding.
“In India, because the bar has been so low for so long (all of us in the business have to accept some of the blame for that), and there are new generations hungry for quality information and entertainment, the future is brighter than in most parts of the world, where reading habits and publishing revenues are declining. There is no place to go but up. Great books will not die, but will continue to thrive,” he said.
Davidar has been a publisher for over a quarter century and has published several of the country’s finest writers, including Shashi Tharoor, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, Khushwant Singh, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan, Amitav Ghosh and Jeet Thayil. He is currently the Managing Director and Publisher of Aleph Book Company, a literary publishing firm he co-founded in 2011.
He has also authored three novels “The House of Blue Mangoes” (2002), which was published in 16 countries, and became a bestseller in six of them; “The Solitude of Emperors” (2007), which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize; and “Ithaca” (2011).
(Saket Suman can be contacted at email@example.com)