The rationale behind the 5% custom duty on imported books was “to encourage domestic publishing and printing industry”. And so, printed books, including covers for printed books and printed manuals, will attract duty. Top publisher professionals were nonplussed - and felt “the move actually works contrary to what it intends to achieve.”
Meanwhile imported newsprint, uncoated paper used for printing of newspapers and lightweight coated paper used for magazines will attract 10% custom duty. This decision is expected to have a significant impact on the industry as most of India’s newsprint requirements are met through imports. Most Indian daily newspapers carry a low cover price, from Rs 1 to Rs 5.
The 10% customs duty on newsprint is bound to adversely affect the bottomline of small and medium newspapers across the country.
The Indian newspaper industry has been coping with high newsprint prices due to China’s decision to cease production of newsprint. In 2018, newsprint prices had risen by USD 200 (approximately Rs 13,000) a tonne over 24 months.
PrintWeek India's verdict: The Indian Readership Survey Q1 2019 proved that print is a trustworthy medium. In real terms this meant, dailies and magazines added 1.8 crore and 90 lakh readers respectively since IRS 2017, Hindi dailies seem to lead the print growth story with an additional 1 crore readers. Even print marketing indicated good numbers as a report by IPG Mediabrands stated: that print media ad revenues grew to Rs 22,121.8 crore in 2018 and shall rise to Rs 22,424.3 crore throughout 2019. The Union Budget seems to adopting digital at the expense of print, even though print in India is performing well.