“Due to constrained library budgets, distributors are witnessing a southward graph”
says Ravi Ahuja of Shankars Book Agency Pvt Ltd, New Delhi.
AABP: Tell us something about your distribution network?
Ravi: We are in this trade for over 55 years and import from over 35 Internationally reputed publishers specializing in Engineering, Scientific & Social Science literature. Initially, we were catering to libraries alone but for past 15 years, we are also supplying to local and zonal resellers countrywide.
AABP: How many and which libraries do you cater to?
Ravi: At present, we are registered vendors with over 75 Institutional libraries, mostly being academic libraries. We also cater to DRDO labs.
AABP: What percentage of your business constitutes library sales?
Ravi: Approx. 30-35% of our business is from libraries.
AABP: What criteria is there for selection of books by libraries? How can a distributor/publisher ensure that their books are visible?
Ravi: There are 3-4 ways by which Institutes build up their collection of books. First, selection is made on the requirement of their faculty and scientists.In this method, they get internal requirements from time to time from their scientists and faculties and then source through their vendors. Second option is that vendors are asked to show new arrivals of related interest to concerned teaching or researching staff and the books that appeal to them are recommended for library. Third option is calling for exhibition or book display. In this method, all registered vendors are called to display their books on a predetermined date(s) by the library and then their faculty comes and recommends books of their choice and library then purchase, funds permitting.
AABP: What changes have been in the industry, especially with the grants received by libraries and how has it affected the sales figures?
Ravi: It has been observed that for the past decade there is no significant increase in budgets allocated to libraries for purchase of books, infact the situation is getting worse by the day as on one hand, prices of books have an upward trend and with rupee devaluation vis-a-vis foreign currencies like Dollar, Euro and GBP. It is getting increasingly difficult for libraries to purchase essential books required for education growth and research purposes. And with low volumes of sales turnover, most distributors are witnessing a southward graph.
AABP: What are the challenges in the industry and how are you facing them?
Ravi: As mentioned above the challenges faced by the book industry are immense. With Government of India imposing 5% customs duty and another 1.5-2% incidental charges, budgets constraints in libraries and increase in running overhead expenses going up, distributors are hardly getting any margins thus many contemplating to cost-cutting modes with employment could be the major casualty in coming times.
AABP: With many libraries now opting for ebooks and ejournals, what do you think about this change and how has it affected the physical sale of print books?
Ravi: Print book sales have definitely taken a major hit for reasons explained above. To add to the woes of the print books, sale of e-books too eat up quite a lion’s share of library grants but worldwide trends reflect dip in sales of e-books.
AABP: How would you like to conclude?
Ravi: In the end, all I would say is that we need to save the book industry!