Plight of book distributors during Covid-19

Like the other industries, publishers, library suppliers, wholesalers and booksellers have also been badly affected by Covid-19 and it is bound to leave a lasting negative impact on the sale of printed books in the coming years too!

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Kailash BalaniAditya Books Pvt Ltd distributes books on higher education in all subject areas. They supply books to over 300 booksellers and over 1,000 educational institutions. These books are imported from all the major publishers in the world and distributed all over India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal. Here, Kailash Balani of Aditya Books Pvt Ltd shares his views on the impact of Covid-19 on the book distributors in India.

Impact of Covid-19…

“Like the other industries, publishers, library suppliers, wholesalers and booksellers have also been badly affected by Covid. March is the month when 30-40% of annual sales happen and due to Covid, there was hardly any sales,” tells Balani.

“Publishers and booksellers had conducted many book exhibitions at various higher education institutions in the months of January, February and early March and were waiting for the billing instructions. But due to sudden closure of institutions due to Covid, no orders were received and even books got stuck at various institutions as we could not transport them back. We finally collected books back in July/August and many of the books were in bad condition as they were lying unattended in the institutions. We received back over 90% of the books due to lack of selection as hardly any faculties were attending physical classes and even now most of the institutions are closed for physical classes. Covid will leave a lasting negative impact on the sale of printed books in the coming years,” tells Balani.

“Our government has to look into the interest of the publishing industry by releasing funds for library purchases so that the print book does not die.”

Impact of Covid-19 on Aditya Books…

“Books are received by us in November/December so that we are able to sell them by March. This year also, we were prepared and had huge inventory, but due to Covid we could hardly sell 10% of stock we had. All the stock is lying unsold, we had to pay our suppliers and on top Rupee devaluation during Covid made our life miserable. Institutions are closed, libraries are closed so where do we sell our stock? Books that we received in late 2019 and early 2020 are now almost one year old and are outdated from the librarians’ point of view as they purchase books on the basis of copyright year and not on the basis of the content,” tells Balani.

“In view of this, we shall not place any new stock orders and if the librarians want to purchase any books they will have to select from the catalogues and then we will procure them for supply. This will result in delays and may impact research. It is becoming uneconomical to maintain staff and pay salaries and the other overheads due to lack of sales. We closed our Chennai office three years ago and have closed our Kolkata and Daryaganj operations this year and are going to close our Bengaluru operations by April 2021. The only alternative we have is to list all our unsold inventory on Amazon and try to liquidate as much as possible,” he adds.

Other challenges…

“Libraries hardly have any budget for buying print books and on the other hand the government has recently announced the New Education Policy but nothing has been said about library funds. The situation for the publishers and the distributors is very grim and if the government does not release library budgets, many publishers, booksellers and the distributors will have to close their shops which will result in huge unemployment and will impact the research. Book exports have also been badly hit due to the unavailability of air transport and our postal services. Even foreign post office hardly cares for book exports as they sit on parcels for days and weeks before dispatching them. This delay makes our customers unhappy which results in cancellation of orders and in return we earn bad name for no fault of ours,” adds Balani as a matter of fact.

“Our government has to look into the interest of the publishing industry by releasing funds for library purchases so that the print book does not die,” concludes Balani.

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