Print books versus eBooks

The 25th Delhi Book fair

The 25th annual Delhi Book Fair at Pragati Maidan

The 25th annual Delhi Book Fair at Pragati Maidan, organized by the India Trade Promotion Organization, began on 11 September and continued till 15 September 2019. The 21st Stationery Fair and the 5th Office Automation and Corporate gift fair ran concurrently with the book fair at the same venue. Visitor entry to the Delhi Book Fair was free of charge and was organized by the India Trade Promotion Organization in association with the Federation of Indian Publishers.

Despite being organized at a small scale in Hall 7, the event attracted good footfall by readers, publishers, authors, booksellers students, teachers, intellectuals and book hoarders. The theme for this year, ‘150 years of Mahatma Gandhi’ attempted to inspire the visitors with Gandhi’s philosophy of honesty and intellect. With more than 100 exhibitors, Delhi Book Fair aimed to encourage literacy and reading among the youth of the city, region and country.

Day out from school

School students during the Delhi Book Fair at Pragati Maidan. Photo IPP
School students during the Delhi Book Fair at Pragati Maidan. Photo IPP

The book fair was a good day out for local school students. Accompanied by their teachers, young students were seen engaging in art and craft activities in the exhibition halls and exploring the variety and volume of books on exhibitor stands. Their elder counterparts, high school and college students, held visitors spellbound with dance and drama performances.

A drama performance during the book fair by students. Photo IPP
A drama performance during the book fair by students. Photo IPP

The main attraction of the Delhi Book Fair, however, was the used books. Scholars and readers alike were seen crowding the stands of the local retail book sellers selling used books for prices as low as Rs. 50. The books varied from competitive books to classic literature. The new book sellers had fewer visitors. Readers didn’t seem to be interested in investing in a new book and seem to prefer a tested product and weathered copies.

With the readers’ inclination towards buying used books and eBooks, the book sellers report that the book industry is stagnant. DK Kapoor, regional manager, Jaico Publishing House, said, “The demand for books has decreased because of the ease of information available on the internet. Our publishing business has suffered a loss of 10% while our distribution business saw a decline of 40%. But books are still being published. We release approximately 10 books every month and 2,000 titles every year. While academic books are not being sold as much, there is still a healthy demand for competitive exams books.”

Oswal Printers and Publishers publishes academic books for schools and books for competitive exams. Darpan Sharma, its regional manager, said, “The book industry is going through hard times. There is free academic material available online and students today prefer reading online instead of carrying a book around. In my time, we would carry multiple notebooks with us, but now students carry a single notebook. Students are shifting away from bulky books to more convenient means. We are also active in the digital space. . . and we don’t face difficulty in terms of digital sales. We have an online book store where we sell books and eBooks and so we are doing well in the market. We provide books to schools across India.”

Darpan Sharma, regional manager, Oswal Printers and Publishers. Photo IPP
Darpan Sharma (left), regional manager, Oswal Printers and Publishers. Photo IPP

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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