Indian publishing after the pandemic

In this digital age, the Indian publishing industry is undergoing a landscape change — newspapers and magazines are witnessing a massive fall in subscriptions, whereas print books have comfortably adapted to the demands of the digital.

16 Aug 2022 | By PrintWeek Team

Som Nath Sapru

The publishing industry contributes to India’s economic development, not only by promoting learning and education, but also by creating employment for more than 12 million people. Experts calculated the industry’s growth potential to the tune of Rs 50 billion in 2019, which may grow by 2024. 

The National Education Policy 2020 and its initiatives on education and on increase in the overall education expenditure, are all identified as the key growth devices for the Indian publishing industry.

The publishing industry is the promoter of Indian culture, values, and excellence, with at least 45% of trade books being sold in regional languages. It maximises the continued uptake of digital platforms, such as eBooks in regional languages to reach diverse audiences in remote areas in the north-east – and this is a post-pandemic thrust.

The Indian publishing industry is highly fragmented and competitive, with more than 9,000 publishers and around 24,870 retailers, and is dominated by educational book publishing with a small share of trade book publishing. The industry also helps the dissemination of scientific research. 

Post-pandemic, the industry is making great strides, as many publishers have and are switching over to eBooks and thereby reaching out to end-users in remote areas. This has helped bridge the gap the industry has — inefficiencies across its value chain, besides complex distribution channels, high costs and challenges related to ease of doing business. 

All these issues affect the financial sustainability of a publishing house. Add to that the GST woes. In a country where zero-tax slab does not exist, the introduction of 5% GST on eBooks can benefit both the publishing industry and the government.

The Covid-19 pandemic did damage beyond limits. The imposition of strict lockdowns led to limited sales, delayed payments for publishers and a steep collapse in the supply chain, while print book sales came to a complete halt due to bookstores being closed. 

During the period, the sale of eBooks witnessed a significant growth. Fast forward two years, besides eBooks, print books are seeing significant improvement. There is a demand for new and old titles as it used to be in the pre-pandemic days.

The increased penetration of technology into the lives of the people is bound to change the nature of knowledge consumption. Post-pandemic, to sustain the changing socio-economic and technological advancements, the publishing industry has innovated new modes of outreach, formats and business, such as online retail, subscriptions, bundle packages, open-access resources and self-publishing. 

Whereas in mature markets such as Norway, the UK and the US, digital formats are becoming key growth drivers for the publishing industry, print books continue to dominate the Indian publishing industry. 

As far as education publishing is concerned, the National Education Policy can offer significant opportunities, as the policy promises more emphasis on higher education and research and innovation. Thus, the publishing industry has the potential to thrive by ensuring effective dissemination of educational content while collaborating with the research community to design, market, and distribute quality journals to a broader audience. 

India, the hub of the South Asian publishing market, was growing in an unprecedented way before the Covid-19 pandemic caused the harshest possible operational disruptions. It is estimated the South Asian publishing industry’s total annual business was to the tune of Rs 2.5-billion just before the start of the pandemic, with our country being the centre stage of books in English. India remains a favoured destination for sub-continental writers and academicians.

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