The growth of e-books in international markets like US and Europe suggest that they have a great future ahead in this country as well. The publishers association of US revealed in their statistics year book earlier this year, that the sales of e-books increased by 366 per cent in the year, 2011. Amazon’s e-book sales eclipsed the paper based book sales as against every 100 printed books 105 e-books were sold out. But the Indian consumer and publisher behaviour is not the same.
Despite the fact that PCs, laptops, mobiles with internet have certainly become a necessity from being a luxury, e-books will have to see through a difficult road to become as accepted as it is in the developed world.
The unaware consumer
Though internet is no more a new phenomenon in India and most of the youth are connected to the web but the awareness about e-books is very miniscule. The Indian web consumer is active on the social networking websites but when asked to name one e-book portal on the web, the reply was not very encouraging for the e-book industry. To get an insight about why is the consumer still unaware of the e-books Vikram Khosla, founder & managing director, HookedonBook.com said, “Indians are very anxious but the fact that these e-books are not very much available in the market becomes the reason for this type of consumer behaviour”.
The growth of CDIT companies like HP, Acer, Samsung and Apple have established the love of Indian youth for gadgets. In such a situation love for books and gadgets should naturally give birth to e-books. Answering why is it not happening, Khosla said, “Because the publishers are not ready to publish the books in the electronic format. There are various reasons for that, one of which is online copyright infringement”.
In the developed nations, the e-book is released along with the printed version. The publication houses have a better technology to deal with the infringement acts and the trend shows, they make better revenues with the release of e-books along with the paperback. In India, the publisher behaviour is not the same. In a chat with the Retailer, Rajan Tiwari spokesperson from Pitambar publishing company said, “We do not have an e-version of any book. The reason behind that is that it will have an impact on our sales of printed books. Copying the content is a problem, the film industry is facing, if we will be a part of this digitalisation, the sales and eventually the revenues will definitely go down”.
A few publication houses do publish the e-version but only after the book has left the shelf space.
The digital rights management in India speaks about punishing any person who will be caught infringing the copies. But it hardly has any provision which might prevent the act of infringement. Moreover, the act is just a part of the rule books and is beyond the understanding of even the stakeholders.
Targeting the new generation
Besides all the hurdles the e-book suppliers have started it safe. Maritnation.com which is a naukri.com group venture has been trying to tap the kids. They provide home tutorials in the form of online study materials. The books with lot of pictures and animations serve two purposes. Describing how is the model sustainable, Saloni Mahajan, Assistant Manager, Meritnation.com said, “We provide the user id and password and our files can be opened online only. One reason why children like our material is that they are full of animations and pictures which in the hindside also makes the files too heavy to be copied.” Speaking about why are they targeting children, Mahajan said, “Our generation was brought up with the habit of feeling and smelling paper and will not easily accept this format, but children do not have a hangover of paper, just like a paper is for grownups, e-books can become for children”.
E-books might have shown their presence lately but the path of books from print to screens does not seem to be smooth in India. Our love for paper does not seem to be ending pretty soon.