The central government’s strong push to open all schools in the first half of February has caught many private publishers off-guard. As they scramble to produce and distribute their books across the country, many mid-size book printers have become overly busy. The textbooks need to be despatched to warehouses from 15 February to mid-March, for the coming semester. As the Omicron variant and the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic recedes and vaccinations also become available for children below 18, there is an overall resurgence in the economy, looking to get back to business.
As we wrote recently, there are several dislocations in the educational process. The digital divide means that large numbers of children in the rural areas and economically weaker sections are not able to benefit from remote and web learning – the sooner government schools open the easier it will be to try and make up for two lost years. Amongst the wealthy and city-dwelling demographic a great disaffection among parents has grown with tablets and computers.
Apart from the health and eyesight issues, parents are upset by the adventurous and overly convenient ingenuity of their wards in using the Internet. The extended unnatural indoor existence has become torturous for both children and parents who benefit from school environments in multiple ways and activities.
The value of schools is rising in the collective consciousness in a positive way. Publishers are playing catch-up and trying to get their revamped or refreshed titles printed and distributed to their warehouses in this month itself and at the latest, by mid-April. We have talked to a couple of book printers who are now busy and even turning down titles that they will not be able to deliver in time. Some of the mid-size commercial printers who had work throughout the pandemic have with some foresight, built up a reasonable inventory of paper in their stores and warehouses.
Publisher printers have been showing interest in ordering new presses for the past few months. Even government textbook presses have initiated large new press orders. Deliveries are hampered by the shortage of chips and so most of the new press deliveries and installations will only come about in the new financial year that starts in April.
Some of the book printers have in the meanwhile added more digital presses. They have added drum and toner machines with extra colors and metallic effects for book covers and promotional materials. At the same time, they are now graduating from monochrome drum and toner and inkjet presses to full-color inkjet web presses for the text pages. One can sense the renewed optimism among the book printers who are flush with work, have the paper in hand to deliver, and new presses on order for what they believe is an inevitable growth in demand.