A visit to Daryaganj, Delhi’s hub of book publishing, was long overdue. A wet summer and unprecedented floods this year delayed the plans. Finally, when the downpour slowed for a few days, the Indian Printer and Publisher toured Delhi’s famed heritage neighborhood to get an update on the book publishing industry.
Daryaganj is a major commercial as well as residential hub in what is now known as Old Delhi. The Netaji Subhash Road, which begins from Delhi Gate and heads toward the historic Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk, divides the bustling neighborhood.
Apart from the rows of book publishing houses on the snaky Ansari Road, Daryaganj is also synonymous with the Sunday Book Market or Kitab Bazaar, which operates from the pavements. The market, which was established around 1964, stretches almost two kilometers along Netaji Subhash Road. One would find books on virtually any topic in the world, and from any writer, at throwaway prices in the Sunday Book Market.
A large number of book publishers are based in and around Daryaganj – S. Chand & Co., Prentice Hall India, Oxford University Press, and a host of other small and big names. When the Indian Printer and Publisher visited the market, the traders were steadily recovering from the rain. The surging waters of the Yamuna had come right to the neighborhood.
The publishers in the area work along with schools, colleges, universities, and authors – providing their services in both annual and short-run formats.
Book exports have gone up steadily, said an executive at Random Publishers, one of the prominent publishers. “Exports to the African region have increased significantly. Before the pandemic, our exports were on the lower side and the focus was mostly on the distribution pan-India. Digital growth disturbed the demand to a certain degree. The recovery from the pandemic is yet not complete,” the executive said.
The Indian markets seem to be on the sluggish side, claimed several distributors and exporters. But there is a demand abroad. “Indian books are gaining more recognition in the African markets and there has been a considerable rise in demand. Within the Indian markets, regional language guidebooks have shown a growing demand, especially for state boards and competitive exams. There is demand in both print and digital formats. The distribution chains are enabling to provide in any required format,” said a representative of All India Book House, a pan-India book distributor.
According to the representative, the big publishers and exporters do not consider the falling printing costs a problem. “There are many publishers and distributors on Ansari Road and all of them want to do business and make profits. However, the falling cost of printing has been causing a lot of difficulties among small-time printers. While the big firms do not hesitate to lower their price for bulk orders with their heavy production capacity, the short-run providers are suffering due to it. Many small-time printers have shut shops and ventured into other businesses. Ansari Road publishers have thin walls so such news travels fast.”
KB Sharma, vice-president of Scientific International, a veteran in book publishing and distribution, said Indian publishers now compete with international markets and standards. “Though the recovery from the pandemic has been slow, saying that the industry is slow would be unwise. Competition has increased and technology is an enabler. The recovery and the adoption of newer technologies need to go hand in hand as Indian publishers are now competing with international players. The progress we make in years to come will be a sight to behold,” Sharma said.