Innovations in Hindi language publishing during pandemic

In this pandemic and lockdown period Hindi writers and publishers have become digital like never before. Prabhat Ranjan shares the innovations in Hindi language publishing during this period.

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This pandemic period is not good for printed book industry in Hindi but on the other side it is time to innovate also, time to rediscover and try to understand the importance of technology and its reach in ‘Hindi patti.’ Kindle had started Hindi e-books on its platform few years back but it had failed to attract new readers. In this corona era, people are talking about alternative forms of book reading – buying kindle device, downloading book reading apps etc.

Authors going live on Facebook…

It is good to see that in this period, people are gradually adapting to technology which earlier was avoided. It was a treat to us that Sahitya Academy Award winner writers Vinod Kumar Shukla and Ramesh Chandra Shah were doing Facebook live. Veteran writer Ashok Vajpeyi is doing Facebook live on a regular basis. It is also very interesting to watch that senior writers are doing more Facebook live than young Hindi writers and readers are enjoying wholeheartedly. Initially the senior writers were not too eager for social media platforms and it’s uses for literary activities but now they are not only doing Facebook lives session but also adopting these SNS medium rapidly. They are communicating and attracting audiences.

Whatsapp reading….

There are other things to be noted too. Leading Hindi publisher Rajkamal Prakashan is sending daily whatsapp list of reading to their readers (they call it the whatsapp book) and in a statement by the MD Ashok Maheshawari, he said that they are reaching out to more than 25,000 readers daily.

Say it on Telegram

New platforms are launching day by day and old players are experimenting with new things every day. Recently jankipul.com has created an account on telegram messenger app to provide free PDF of copyright free books to the readers. In a way they are creating new readership and trying to grow Phone based readership base in Hindi too.

Connecting readers and authors…

One silent success story of this pandemic period of Hindi world is the Youtube channel of Ajit Anjum. This channel was started in the lockdown period and in a short span of 50 days, it crossed two lakh subscribers base. This one example shows social media reach in rural areas too. The message is loud and clear- if you share people’s point of view, people will connect with you.

Reading on the mobile phone is picking up

Let’s take an example of https://epustakalay.com/, which is a collection of Hindi PDF books, consisting of old and rare books, copyright free books to recent books. The number of downloads is increasing daily on this site. The download number show that ebook reading, in PDF format is growing but OUP Marketing Head and Hindi fiction writer Naveen Chaudhary feels otherwise. He says that free PDF downloads are increasing but is it converting into readership or not is not clear. Norway based Doctor and Writer Praveen Kumar Jha points another aspect, he says that whether it is paid or free but mobile reading is picking up. Famous writer of ‘Kashmirnama’ Ashok Kumar Pandey says that book reading on the mobile is much easier.

Audiobooks are also in vogue…

In this period audio book listening is also picking up. Storytel and Audible are changing the scene. Both are very optimistic about the number of listeners. Audible has partnered with Hindi publisher Rajpal and Sons and they are promoting their books aggressively. It is said that during this period number of listeners have increased. Rajpal and Sons publishing house MD Meera Johri is very optimistic about it, she said that eBook and audio books are going to stay as Hindi has a long tradition of vachik parampara (oral tradition). Rajkamal Prakashan MD Ashok Maheshwari says that this form of book is here to stay as one can listen to them doing other things also.

Quality content does not come for free

There is one more development to be noted in this pandemic period, which shows that people will pay for quality content. It is a fact that Hindi readership is growing online through free content reading, whether it is websites, PDF contents or social media platforms, people are habituated to free content. It is good that free content are attracting readers online which is growing day by day, but it is not sustainable for the content provider. Some newspapers have started charging for their app-based content reading, though its nominal, but so far it is mostly free. Times of India group Hindi daily Navbharat Times has launched Navbharat gold a new website, which they call infotainment website. It is the first website in a magazine format launched by a media giant. This website has every possible content for the virtual reader, even podcast too. When asked, its editor Mrityunjay Rai said, “It is for those readers too who cannot read. They can listen too.” And don’t forget, it’s going to be paid. It shows the new trend- when virtual is becoming real, everything has to be paid. You cannot expect quality content for free forever.

Virtual is becoming real in Hindi world too….

Hindi world is experimenting in this pandemic world rapidly, though success stories are few but they are showing the way for future readership. Virtual is becoming real and most importantly everybody is accepting it as a new normal. Question is that how far these changes are going to affect and going to shape future of Hindi is not clear. One thing is clear for sure is that Hindi with its almost 100 million data bases is going virtual fully. And not just young ones but aged ones are also trying to explore its possibility. Veteran writer Mamta Kalia finds it easiest way to read, write and connect to the Hindi mass.

Slowly but steadily in the pandemic period alternative mediums are becoming real and at last Hindi language readers are realizing that technology is not a luxury but is a need of hour and they are adopting it. Technology is giving new dimensions to Hindi book world and transforming it forever.

(Prabhat Ranjan is a writer, translator and the moderator of the literary website jankipul.com).

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