Our first love!
Books are our first love… SC Sethi, president, FBPAI (Federation of Booksellers and Publishers Associations in India) shares how books and bookstores will continue to be an integral part of our lives.
SC SethiAll of us in the past few years have gone through the cacophony that with the arrival of e-books the death of paper books is inevitable and around. The media had been hyping the news that a large numbers of people are switching over to digital reading devices and that the sale of paper books is fast declining. Such news had for sometime created an anxiety, a dread and a feeling of melancholy in the minds of book lovers like you and me as well as the book traders. The doomsayers made us believe that our ’beloved book’ shall soon become a history and that all of us will have to switch over to digital devices and would do our book reading on screen, Kindle, smart phones and tablets, etc.
The good news…
Well! There is a saying that ‘true love’ never dies and as such the true lovers of books ultimately found no truth in the assertions of those doomsayers. If the facts of an article published in The New York Times have to be believed, the sale of e-books in the first half of 2015 fell by 10% in United States. Similarly, a survey carried out by Nielsen revealed that the position of people who read books primarily on electronic devices fell to 32% from 50% in the first quarter of 2012.
In the United Kingdom, the largest book retailer Waterstones announced that it will now display physical paperbacks and hardbacks instead of selling on Kindle where sales are not good. There was an amazing move by Amazon: it opened its physical bookstore in November 2015 at Seattles’ University Village.
In our culture when an elderly person supplicates for youngster, he wishes for him a long life with good health. From the averments enumerated as above, it is established that books across the globe have a long lease of life, albeit in India the story is not as rosy.
The health of the book is likely to be affected in the wake of sizeable curtailment of funds for books by the government. Generally, books are routed through libraries and educational institutions that get grants from the government; but when the grant is curtailed, such libraries and institutes are not in a position to purchase books and make them available to readers. Secondly, of late there has been a trend that librarians and educational institutes emphasise on discounts instead of emphasising on good books. We have been appealing to vice-chancellors, librarians and others to purchase good books that are not on heavy discounts. As a result, less books of low quality are reaching people at the expense of good books.
I have already written to the authorities concerned including the Ministry of HRD to pay attention towards these lapses and take appropriate steps in strengthening the cause of books. I remember, in the 1960s all educational institutes used to mark the contents after selecting from publishers’ catalogues, but now the scenario has changed with discount playing a vital role, which is good neither for academic excellence nor for book trade.
On the concluding note…
I am in this industry for the past 49 years and have never experienced such a difficult time before where the book industry is in such a dilemma. As such, voices for the good health of book industry should not only be raised from the platform of the federation but also from each nook and corner and by every book lover who are of course not in a minority. Efforts should also be made that the experience of reading physical book should prevail over reading e-book. Although the situation today is quite gloomy, I firmly believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.