Monday, August 3, 2009

Pricing and the Indian Book Industry

Via The Economic Times

In the middle of a downturn, chances are that a book will behave a bit like a car. The smaller its price tag, the better is its chance of leaving the checkout gate. A brief tour through the aisles of any book shop in Colaba or Janpath shows the same picture—the disappearance of the high piles of egregiously priced coffee tables and the brisk sale of pulp fiction, pulp essay and even pulp philosophy.

The magic lies in the pricing. It must be limited to just a few hundred-rupee notes that the thumb and the index can unhesitatingly squeeze out of the wallet’s sparse interior.

Given the price sensitivity of a market like India, the book industry in the country is dictated by authors, publishers, retailers and the ubiquitous roadside bookseller, who ensures the book is sold at throwaway prices, while miraculously making an enviable margin.

The truth is the business is driven by high costs and what makes it more complex is that the end-consumer in this business is hugely price-sensitive . In the middle of this, how much to charge for a book is left to the publisher. Now that is a tough decision. And the slowdown has ensured the story takes a different turn. A candid Akash Shah, Publisher, Jaico Publishing, says the last six months have been rather difficult with credit cycles being deferred and book shops going slow on orders.

To most people, India is at the cusp of the publishing story and the action waiting to play out will be worth the wait. That belief is not without reason. The country has a large literate population and the reading habit is often inculcated early in life. Besides, the opportunity to write and translate books across languages is an opportunity that any marketer will give his right hand for. The key is to deliver a quality product at any time.

“I’d like to believe that there will always be an audience and a market for truly original works of literature regardless of commercial fluctuations,” says a rather emphatic Altaf Tyrewala, author of the critically acclaimed No God in Sight. India has never had a paucity of quality writers and that is the best piece (of news) for the industry. Now how these creative artists come together with publishers will form the next round of the story.
Read the entire article here.

Image Source : Seth Mazow

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