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Sometime back, Nielsen’s has done a study on the Indian book market and it spew a few facts –some were yummy and some were yucky. The book market grew at 20.4% during the period of 2011-15. We have over 9000 publishers. The market currently worth Rs 261 billion will touch Rs 739 billion by 2020, which means the CAGR will continue to clock around 20% in the coming years too.

Our economy grows at around 7 plus, GDP grows at 5 and our population grows less then 2%. So, forget about the doomsayers who say reading is dying. Reading is living and growing.

On the rosy side again, book business accounts for 15% percent of the total e-commerce market which, the pundits say, is still on the countdown mode for the blast. But, books account for just 1% of the total retail market. The book market will also piggy ride on our growing literacy rate which is expected to be 90% by 2020.

There are some alarming trends too. 55% of the books sold are written and 35 percent are in Hindi. It means all other regional languages put together have just 10% share.

India projects its diversity as the biggest beauty. According to estimates, 30 languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers, another 122 by more than 10,000. So, these 28 languages and thousands of authors therein scramble for a pie from this minuscule piece of the market. That is not a great news.

But there is another piece of good news. 90% of the English books sold were professional and education books. Half of the fiction books sold are in these non-English and non-Hindi languages. Long live our valiant writers from vernacular languages.

There are many learnings from this. Victory has many fathers, so many will take the credit of pushing the book sales or nurturing the reading. But who has to be blamed for dip in the regional languages. There could be many reasons too.

I think, a few fads also have contributed to the growth of English book market. English thrive on our charity. In the public places, we prefer to struggle and chew the English books though we relish the `ghar ka dal’ (mother tongue) at home better. When in the book store, we want to pick up an English book, because the fair lady in jeans and the man in shorts also do the same. We want to talk about English authors or at least about the new breed of Indian English authors. Because, I may look like a `Half boy’ if somebody knows that I have not read one of the pulps from these new kids on the block. And many more such fads…

But on the positive note, there still a vast market yet to tap for the regional literature, may be in the rural areas. We can take the help of technology to reach them. Yet we have some genius writers willing to write in these languages. And there are still hardcore readers who want to battle like foot soldiers for their own mother tongues. That is really the good news.


** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the GLF Circle.

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