Let’s stand together in solidarity!
The year 2022 will mark 75 years of India’s book publishing since independence. India’s book market standing at $ 8 billion and with a CAGR of 19% (2019). The market segment includes 71% for K-12, 23% for Higher Education and 6% Trade publishing. India is the second-largest English publishing market and the 6th biggest publishing market in the world. The book Publishing market in India is predominantly a print based market.
Here, Ramesh K. Mittal, President, Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) shares how FIP is helping the Indian publishing industry during the pandemic.
AABP: Brief us about Federation of Indian Publishers and its activities. As India is a print-based market, do advise us about print and digital percentage.
Ramesh: Federation of Indian Publishers is an apex body of publishers across India founded 46 years back. It has major publishers from every part of the country as its direct members, while different publishers associations representing even languages are federated to it. It represents about 80% of the publishing fraternity of India. Federation works as a conduit between the publishers and the Govt. for any issues which are raised by the industry from time to time. Even during the lockdown period a number of representations were made by the federation to different departments of the Govt.
AABP: Do advise, how the lockdown was implemented across the nation, and its effect on publishing industry in India?
Ramesh: It was an unprecedented experience for everyone leading to a complete shutdown of activities except for essentials. A country with such a huge population came to a grinding halt. The lockdown continued for about two-and-a half to 3 months in different states, as was required. Slowly things are being unlocked with certain limitations.
All book activities came to a complete standstill at least for the first six weeks. Having a sizeable population of school going students, the most unfortunate situation for the publishers in India has been that the new school session begins on April 01. Being under lockdown due to the pandemic, school book sales went completely haywire. Consequently publishers are holding huge inventories of millions of books in their warehouses leading to various additional costs.
AABP: What are the current challenges faced by the Indian publishing industry and what government support is needed?
Ramesh: Publishers foresee lesser chances of an absolute revival during this fiscal year that will end in March 2021. Common problems of the publishers caused by this major disruption are: dealing with lay-offs, salary cuts, managing working from home, cash flow problems, distribution etc.
Reverse migration of semi-skilled labour will affect the jobs like binding and even printing. A lot of piracy has taken place in the creation of digital formats by teachers for conducting online classes. In some cases, entire books have been misused completely for online teaching.
Availability of proper internet connection with required bandwidth across India and the availability of requisite devices with each family is a major question. Some students/parents even face challenges in absorbing the e-content. And books not being in hand, students face difficulty in getting to understand what is being taught online.
Generally libraries take quite some time to pay their vendors, which in turn affects the publishers fund flow. This time payments from libraries to vendors and from vendors to publishers got delayed by these 3 months of lockdown. 31st March being the end of fiscal year, the entire structure of finances of this knowledge industry went haywire.
Certain libraries do not have the infrastructure for digital content. Similarly every publisher too does not have eBooks. Moreover, libraries already had lesser grants for the past two years and publishers are doubtful about the requisite funds this fiscal. So, it is a challenging situation at this point of time.
Piracy is rampant in higher studies books. More so, after the decision of Hon’ble High Court in Delhi Univ. case. And this grew further during the lockdown as people searched and downloaded their requisite books through one or the other online source. There is a need for the Govt. to come up with some awareness programmes for the people to respect copyright.
Besides the common issues, it was a difficult period for new books and authors, whose releases were planned in between. Some publishers have postponed new acquisitions while some others are focusing on surviving and sustaining.
Infact, the entire supply-chain has been disturbed during this period. And one never knows when a facility may have to be closed temporarily if a staff member gets impacted by Covid.
Covid times are terrible times for humanity. But from all such disasters comes new innovations and new changes. Virtual events are one such change and we created pragatiE during this time. It’s not something for Covid times only, it’s here to stay. The Delhi Book Fair this year will see more exhibitors and more audience than last year and while the physical fair may come back next year, the virtual one is here to stay.”
-Pranav Gupta, Prints Publications Pvt.Ltd.
AABP: Share your views on 3 years of Goods and services tax- GST, which was introduced in India on July 1, 2017.
Ramesh: Talking about GST, Govt. of India introduced GST on July 01, 2017 scrapping a number of different taxes then in vogue. This was a nice move from the traditional system to a modern and transparent one. Books were kept out of the GST regime in order not to tax education and reading. Thanks to our govt. However, all inputs used into creation of a book, i.e. paper, printing, binding, page setting, designing and the like are under GST. Moreover, royalties paid to the authors have also been taxed under GST as reverse charge payable by the publishers. This tax never existed earlier. This has resulted into increase in the prices of books, which is costing the end-users heavily. We have been representing to the Govt. on these issues and requesting to consider keeping all inputs used in a book to be out of GST regime.
AABP: How can solidarity, collaborations and innovations lead to recovery?
Ramesh: Publishers, and for that matter everyone in the community, have learnt to remain connected, while in isolation during the new normal. The other side of Covid-19 is likely to play a vital role in understanding the need of new ways of content creation and dissemination. This will also ensure moving forward together in solidarity and looking for avenues for collaborations and innovations.
Delhi Book Fair 2020 goes virtual
The 26th edition of Delhi Book Fair 2020 will be held from October 30-31, 2020 at www.pragatie.com, a virtual exhibition platform.
The event will see participation of publishers, authors, distributors and readers. Delhi Book Fair 2020 is all set to witness an anticipated participation of 2 lakh visitors and over 100 exhibitors and more than 20 webinars.