Price war plague the school textbook publishing majorly

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The school textbook publishing segment is growing at a rate of 16-17% while the higher-end segment is growing at a rate of 8-10%. But, the industry has its own challenges and strengths. Here, Raghu Ram Aiyar of Amity University Press (AUP) shares the nuances of this industry, in conversation with Varsha Verma. The unhealthy price wars…

Raghu Ram Aiyar“Academic publishing has taken a totally different direction. The huge discounts war has come to the fore. Books are being prescribed in many institutions not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of the discounts being offered by the publishers,” shares Raghu Ram Aiyar.

Another important aspect he mentioned was that trade plays a major role in placing the orders as institutions do not have time to spend with the publishers or to evaluate the quality of the book. “And trade seems to take a path of least resistance. Both these factors have forced the academic publishers on the crossroads,” he adds. “It takes nine months to take out a quality textbook and in a matter of another nine seconds, the book is trashed as they are not able to meet the desired discount structure. It is an insult to the editors and authors who churn out excellent books which do not see the light of the day,” he shares.

The statistics behind…

So, how does this discount structure works? “Normally, publishers give 25% discount to trade, but they ask for additional 10% discount. Besides, we give out lot of specimen copies, which accounts for another 3%. Over and above, there is a turnover discount, cash discounts as well. Besides, it is a known fact that there is a credit period of 180 days. If we calculate the overall discount structure, it is a huge amount,” explained Raghu.

A few publishers have increased the prices of their books to offer such discounts, yet earn a sizable profit margin. “But, this is not going to be a lasting affair. Normally, the books are priced at the rate of Rs 1.25 per page for textbooks. A small deviation is fine but a large deviation may not go well down the market, besides burning a hole in the pockets of the end-users (parents),” he tells.

“The competition has increased as new players have emerged and the publishers with the proven track record are receding as they are unable to offer huge discounts,” adds Raghu.

The pros…

But, there is a silver lining too…. “There are still many institutions across the country who belong to the old school of thoughts and where publishers are respected for their quality,” he says.

Need for an academic publisher forum…

“There is a need for a strong academic publisher forums wherein like-minded people can sit together and come out with tangible solutions, which may benefit all. Even institutions should be taken into confidence and be an active members of the forum.”

On Amity University Press…

“Inspite of all odds, Amity University Press (AUP) is growing at the rate of 10-12% in terms of volume and 30% in terms of value. This year, we are concentrating on the volumes. We are also strengthening our marketing team and we intend to have 100+ people this year. We all also expanding our editorial team, not just at centre (Noida) but also in regional offices like Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Guwahati and Cochin,” shares Raghu.

Not only this, AUP is also planning to go in a big way into low-cost publishing for price-conscious market in B & C class cities. “We will provide same-quality content with slightly inferior production quality for this segment,” he said.

On book fairs…

AUP has been participating at the NDWBF year on year basis. “It is a good platform to create our identity. We are not present there just for sales purpose,” he tells. AUP is also present at major international book fairs in Frankfurt, London, Dubai and South Africa.

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