The changing face of the academic (school) publishing industry!

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Do institutions really give enough time to publishers to promote their titles? Is content development really so vital in the wake of so many unethical competition from the trade controlling school books business? Should publishers continue to increase the price of books so that they are in a position to meet the unfair demands prior to prescription? These are just a few issues which Raghu Ramakrishnan Aiyar, executive senior vice president, Amity University Press ponders, in conversation with Varsha Verma. The challenges…

While, the pre-primary and primary segment for the publishing industry is growing continuously, there are a few challenges which the industry is facing. Publishers like Amity University Press, are constantly striving to meet these challenges by not succumbing to unethical trends; but offering value-based content books.

It is a long journey, the birth of a book. From manuscript stage to CRC, the book goes through various stages of evolution including the ultimate one of review at the semi final stage. Costs involved are – cost of book making, royalty to the authors, illustrators, designers, etc. The costing also includes man hours put in by the experts in the field. Every book of every publisher goes through these stages. “But, the point of issue is all these efforts become an exercise in futility when it falls in to the wrong hands at the decision making stage. It is a pity,” points out Aiyar. “Books should be accepted by institutions purely on merit on its content development,” avers Aiyar. For this, the decision makers and the influencing members of the institutions should sit more with the publishers to get to know the titles better. Trade and the commercial aspects should come in only later after the merit is well recognised. “Unfortunately the reverse is happening, not enough time is being given to the publishers,” points out Aiyar.

The trade & the publishers…

Raghu Ramakrishnan AiyarThe trade unfortunately understands only one language – discount and more discount. Merit in their hands is a useless tool. Monitory aspect gets the preference. Most often the publishers increase the MRP to meet the unjustified demands of providing more discount. But, this is no solution. It cannot work always. Sooner or later justification will have to be given up to higher ups at the government level where, even now the high price factor of private publishers is being scrutinised seriously,” he adds.

“Again, academic publishing is the only industry where publishers have to wait for anywhere between 120-150 days to realise the payments from the trade. The excuse for this is that the trade is not able to realise the payment from institutions on time. This is an ongoing task, year-after-year,” protests Aiyar. “The payment comes in bits and pieces and the final dues are settled only after the trade gives the unsold books as, ‘returns’.

This percentage of returns in many cases exceeds the industries norm of 10 percent. And, in most cases when the books reach the warehouse of the publishers, the wear and tear is total,” exclaims Aiyar. The demand of the trade can be frustrating – CD (Cash Discount) for early payment, TOD (Turnover Discount), if the sales increase the certain quantum, high returns etc.

etc. etc. Not withstanding all these travails traditional publishers like AUP survive grandly. Joining the traditional publishers are a new crop of young entrepreneurs who are equally very clear on merit based books over ‘Monitory Induced Practices’. This is good news and a great happening, urges Aiyar. In this list is also included the foreign participation in the Indian Academy Publishing scene.

Young parents…

Another important aspect is that young working parents are now equal players in the formative years of their children. They are spending more time in upliftment of their children. “In this segment, parents are not bothered about price. They are looking for value-based and content-based books. They want well-produced book with high content. This is a good step as they are now keen on complete education at home front as well. This will help schools in the long run,” opines Aiyar.

What’s good about our education system?

The all-round evaluation of a child is a recommendable step in our present education system. “The CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation) is a good move and schools are encouraging sports in a big way.

Even though children may miss a few classes, they are taken care of by the school. This is making children more confident, assured and forthcoming,” opines Aiyar. “Academic publishing has come of age and it is growing, notwithstanding the fact that epublishing is making foray. The printed and digital form will complement each other as e-publishing will take a long time to sync in as there is no adequate infrastructure for the same,” tells Aiyar.

On AUP…

Amity University Press (AUP) is making a steady progress, for which North being their flagship territory, as their headquarter is based in Delhi. “Last year, we saw good growth in South and we are coming up with marketing bases in this region this year. Brand Amity, undoubtedly, is helping in a big way,” informs Aiyar. “We are adding 66 new titles this year in subjects like English, Science, Maths and General Knowledge.”

On asking about their plans for regional publishing, Aiyar replies that it is definitely on cards for regions like West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, etc to cater to the syllabi of the state government.

Besides, they are also looking at another product mix – the translation series, which will have stories from various states with folklores attached to it. “We are also planning short stories on Nobel prize winners of the country, to be included in core textbooks,” he says.

With so much still in store, AUP is sure to scale further heights in offering content-rich books to the Indian education industry.

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