The revolution of digital publishing is still a great unknown prospect for most publishers in India – one of the few countries where the eBook market remains unsaturated, says mobile digital publishing solutions provider, Snapplify. But not for long.
As conditions continue to improve, so the education and literacy levels grow, spurring on a domino effect of urbanisation resulting in higher incomes; and so the need for books increases. Already the number of e-reading devices (including mobile devices with e-reading capabilities) exceeds 30 million.
Most of these devices are owned by the younger members of India’s population, who are comfortable with the concept of online retail of eBooks. Not too long ago smartphones, tablets, and eReading devices loaded with English-language content or with easy access to only internationally authored eBooks was all that the youth had access to, leaving local content an almost completely untapped market; today it is a booming emergent industry in India with great potential.
Possibly the largest bookseller in India currently is Flipkart, which saw the gap in the market to introduce digital eBooks in addition to their physical catalogue. Within a month their website had reached 50 000 eBook downloads from 25 000 customers in India. To encourage a positive uptake in their new stock Flipkart released many of these titles for free, citing “Every market has an adoption curve that one has to go through, since readers are initially apprehensive whether reading would be fun on a digital device… But we want to accelerate the adoption process, and hence are providing free titles, which will continue to remain an integral part of our offering,” Vice President of Digital Service at Flipkart, Sameer Nigam.
Publishers and piracy, the challenges still faced
Because of the unrivalled success of the uptake of eBook stores like Amazon in foreign countries, many local publishers are still afraid to enter into the same market, fearing they may lose out to such market giants; despite having the upper hand by supporting local authors as well as publishing in local languages such as Tamil and Hindi, and selling content that is relevant and relatable, an undeniably huge advantage to targeting their local market as well as the global one.
Piracy is a big obstacle for publishers in India, digital content is still regarded by many publishers as unsafe, in a country where the piracy of paper publishing is said to be so prevalent that illegal copies of printed books exceed 25 per cent of the country’s total production. Digital Rights Management (DRM) has not provided a reasonable solution to quell the eBook piracy fears, as distributing eBooks with DRM could cost up to 10 dollars in a region where paper books are selling for $5 or less.
The future of digital publishing in India looks good
The emergence of a discernable middle class that is gadget-happy and seeks local content they can relate to means that Indian publishers have a considerable advantage when it comes to competing against US or European publishers. The progressive partnerships between content producers and their increasingly technologically advanced IT companies will ultimately lead to India enriching the global digital publishing industry with their own tech innovations.
It is encouraging to see just how many publishers have embraced digital in India – Bhupal based Aadarsh Publishers have had enormous success since launching Purple Turtle on the Snapplify digital publishing platform. “The Snapplify app technology has played an integral role in bringing about the success of our digital venture. Purple Turtle ebooks have done exceptionally well in our mobile app store” Manish Rajoria, director of Aadarsh.