It is hard to say how healthy conventional book trade is today compared to say five years ago. There are conflicting figures of volume and revenue growth simply because reliable figures are hard to find. More than 100,000 new books were published last year. Though it looks promising, a closer look will provide with a better understanding.
Rising production and promotional costs and bargain sales are cutting into publishers’ profits and authors’ royalties. Also, the future of the printed book is uncertain due to the digital revolution of handheld devices.
The publishing scene has changed in the last decade due to the advancement in print and communications technology that has made the book-production easier and faster. This has also led to a vast expansion and diversification of media outlets, all of which led to economies of scale and made costs of production more affordable for publishers.
The question is whether the digital revolution will bring about further changes in book-reading. We have to take our cue from the West because it is still a new phenomena in the Indian market. There are two evidences that indicate the future scheme of things.
First, the sales of e-books are almost catching up with, and may well exceed that of, the print editions. Many publishers bring out both the print and Kindle editions. This trend is bound to influence the form in which titles will be published.
Second, the digital revolution has already had a great impact on newspaper circulation which is rapidly reducing in the West. It is only a matter of time till the trend catches up in India.
The technological revolution has brought about a peculiar problem: the lack of storage space. Publishers can hardly afford space for fresh books. Hand-held devices that can store hundreds of books would provide a convenient alternative.
Hand held devices will have more storage capacity and will be more user friendly. Thus, the format of books is about to undergo huge changes in the near future.