Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Jun 19, 2002
Industry & Economy
Newspapers & Publishing
Books are big business again in Kerala
KOTTAYAM, June 18
THE publishing industry in the country, which suffered some setbacks during the recessionary period, seems to be on the recovery path.
In Kerala too, the industry could outlive the difficult phase as the State has maintained its high percentage of reading without substantial reduction in readership, according to Mr Ravi D.C., who runs DC Books Kottayam, the leading publishing house in the State.
It brings out over 700 titles annually and has 70 per cent share of retailing activity. The company clocked sales turnover of Rs 14.5 crore last year.
Mr Ravi said that the new generation is moving away from the reading habit. To solve this, the Government should insist on making reading as part of the curriculum, he added.
"In American schools, they have prescribed the number of books to be read by students at various levels. The number increases at the top. A reading culture has to be inculcated at the very early stage in the schools here."
Publishers have become more selective, exercising caution in selecting and publishing books. About 10,000 copies of Thalamurakal, by O.V. Vijayan, sold out within a month, with 1,000 copies sold on the day of release itself.
Similarly, 8,000 copies of the novel, Kesavante Vilapangal by M. Mukundan were sold in six months. The Malayalam version of Wings of Fire, by Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, was published in 1999. So far, three editions of the book have been brought out.
Issue-based books are also well-received, like Prof Ninan Koshi's recent book on terrorism, for instance, which has been completely sold out.
These books always create controversy, while providing serious academic value to the readers and assuming greater relevance.
There is a genuine and vibrant market for books in Kerala. The publisher has to recognise the taste of the reader and bring out works that suit the market needs.
For instance, there has been no reduction in the number of books brought out by DC Books in 1980 and 2002, but now the percentage of fiction has slightly reduced.
But in other areas, the number of books has gone up, with the result that the total percentage of each group has come down. It clearly indicates that more Keralites are reading non-fiction.
Earlier, bookshops were run based on the old concepts. In 1945, Grandhasala Sangam started a movement to spread the need to read. Later, when Sahitya Pravarthaka Co-operative Society Ltd (SPCS) was registered, many innovative schemes were introduced.
The distribution wing of the SPCS, National Book Stall (NBS) opened retail outlets. SPCS was also the first ever writer's co-operative society.
According to Mr Ravi, only with a sense of creativity, understanding of the taste of the readers and identifying their needs can the publishing industry make gain greater favour with the current generation.
DC Books so far brought out 4,700 titles and sold 1 lakh copies of the English-English-Malayalam Dictionary by T. Ramalingam Pillai during 2001-2002.
The company also released a Malayalam Encyclopaedia in CD format. Last year, it published 16 new writers as part of the plan to encourage fresh blood.
Future plans include bringing out the Encyclopaedia Britannica in four volumes in Malayalam for which a memorandum of understanding has already been signed. The company is also the first ISO 9002 certified book publisher in the country.
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