Awakening inner conscience!
India is a land of saints and gods…some are ancient and some are new. But, they all have their own theologies and beliefs existing in the form of words…and words are best preserved in the form of books. Religious and spiritual books are present in every home, and people resort to such books for attaining inner peace and motivation. Here, Smita Dwivedi brings an insight into this genre of publishing.
Religious and spiritual books seek to revive interest in spirituality, enhance the quality of life and thereby create the legacy of a better world for future generations. There is always a demand for religious and spiritual books and one of the most common reasons for this is hectic and stressful lifestyle. In current context, the publishing industry has grown manifold and a considerable pie is dedicated to religious book publishers. Small, medium and large publishers co-exist to cater to an ever-growing market of religious books.
The religious books are not confined to the set of four Vedas, one of the oldest religious literatures for Hindus; the Quran for Muslims, the Bible for Christians, and Shri Guru Granth Sahib for Sikhs…so on…it is a much broader segment. Like Dev Om, founder, I Am Happy Foundation and author, ShivaConsciousness coach and spiritual guide shared, “Our books are about ‘practical spirituality’. We don’t give any new concepts. We tell about the practical life, practical empowerment, practical growth and all this is not dependent on any outside activity but only on the inner awareness. His bestsellers are The Light a complete guidebook for spiritual growth, Aatmbodh, Shiva Sutra, ShivaConsciousness, Heal Your Today and Meditation for New Age Men.”
While, Ved Chawla of Dreamland Publications, publishers of quality religious literature for children, shared, “With the change in social and cultural scenario, I feel epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are very important. But in terms of business, a lot of potential is still lying untapped.”
And as per Prassana, trustee, Sri Sri Publications Trust (publication division of The Art of Living), “Over the last 30 years The Art of Living is making people emotionally and spiritually independent and equipping them to handle their minds and emotions more effectively with our Guru Ji’s words.”
Why religious and spirituality books?
While, there are a few publishers who are focused only on religious and spiritual books, many other publishers also come up with interesting books on religion from time to time. One such publisher is Niyogi Books and on asking about the popularity of these books, Bikash D Niyogi of Niyogi Books stated, “Competition in the society is urging people to be more proactive. And sense of insecurity in the society is urging them to look for spiritual/emotional shelter in forms of books.”
While, Gulshan Dudani of Geeta Publishing House, Pune shared, “Our spiritual leader, mentor and preceptor, Rev. Dada JP Vaswani feels that people are being systematically deprived of the presence of God, and the consciousness of the spirit, the ‘atman’, in their daily lives. This creates a vacuum which nothing else can really fill. So they feel the need to turn to something deeper, something less materialistic and more fulfilling. The 20th century was often seen as an age of ‘rootless’ people. Now, the same people are driven to recognise their roots and value their culture. Our founder Gurudev Sadhu Vaswani anticipated this need over eighty years ago. This is why he emphasised the writing and publishing of literature that would help cultivate the soul. What you refer to as ‘brisk business’ may be in terms of number of books sold; we see this as fulfilling a deep spiritual need of all thinking people.”
“Everything that we have today is basically need based and I feel the biggest need for today’s generation and people is spirituality. We all are living in a world of constant change, the anticipation level has increased manifold. We cannot say to our boss that I can do only this much, we have to increase our capabilities. And for doing so, we need positive energy. So we are dependent on these books. Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace,” opined Prassana.
Enormous market potential…
“Quite simply, it is as big as the entire reading public of this world! The moment I realise that there is more to life than livelihood, mere amassing of wealth will no longer satisfy me. This is happening even to our teenagers and young professionals now. Some of them are fortunate enough to be associated with spiritual teachers and mentors with personal contacts or as volunteers for a worthy cause. To those who are not so fortunate, books are the next best thing!” told Gulshan.
While, RP Jain of Motilal Banarsidass (MLBD), legends in religious book publishing in India, added, “The market around the world for such books is sizeable enough and quite huge in millions, if not billions! For instance the growth rate for Yoga & Spirituality is booming around the world more than India; perhaps, because several teaching centers are rendering courses on Indic wisdom for the modern age! Similarly, due to spread of Ayurveda in health sector, many spas are flourishing.”
While, Baldev Verma, branch head, India Book Distributor (Bombey) Ltd, New Delhi, sellers of Yogi Impressions’ self-help, personal growth and spiritual books, said, “Readers are reading these subjects to build up their knowledge and mental peace. Market is quite huge for these books in our country.”
Sri Sri Publications Trust has rich knowledge of production and marketing of products and has been doing so for over a decade. Their book shops are doing brisk business all through the year.
Books on spiritual gurus like Swami Vivekananda, Osho, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, J Krishnamurthi are not the only ones selling, there are a host of new age gurus as well. So, how are the teachings different? To this, Gulshan replied, “This is like asking a pious Indian, “If you have had a dip in the Kaveri, why do you wish to go to the Ganga, the Bhagirathi or the Alaknanda?” To tell you the truth, all these are names given to the Ganga as she flows down to the plains from Gangotri. Yet you will find pilgrims disembarking at Rudra Prayag, Karna Prayag and Deva Prayag, to take their sacred dip at each of these rivers! Lord Sri Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad Gita, “On whatever path men approach me, on that I go to meet them. For all the paths are mine, verily mine.”
Each guru tells what he lived. One can authentically tell about that approach, which he has taken for himself. So a seeker has to find a common platform or connection to follow someone’s teachings. If a seeker finds his/her answers in a particular guru’s approach, then he/she should follow that and implement those teaching in his life with full dedication. As Ved Chawla puts it, “They all say same thing but differently, I feel that they all have their followers, who believe in them and will always read their books to imbibe teachings in life. They are publishing books for spreading more awareness about their cult.”
And Bikash shares that their content and approach depend on the subject. “For example, in case of Swami Vivekananda the emphasis is on Karma Yoga, in case of OSHO it would be on meditation, hence the difference,” he added.
While RP Jain, shared, “You must try to understand that we Indians for the most part have a peculiar mind set; we ape the west or all that comes from outside because of our mental slavery of being influenced by what is outsourced regardless of whether Yoga & Spirituality is our own knowledge, but we feel happy because it gets western approval fully certified. New age spirituality flourished in the west several years or ages ago, but India catches it late when new age spirituality becomes somewhat obsolete! The New Age Gurus you mention in your above question are evergreen and ageless because they have international acceptability. These gurus are different in content and approach because they catch the pulse of modern times increasing their accessibility to public much more.”
Now the target audience of these books has expanded – not confined to just older generation; even young people in their 20s and 30s are big time buyers of these books. “All categories of readers buy such books; from general readers to scholars to colleges and to university departments around the globe!” told RP Jain.
“We offer religious story books for kids and they are loved by both kids and their parents as well. Young kids of age group 5-15 are our buyers, and interestingly parents also buy our books to upgrade their knowledge. In terms of bestsellers, our story books on Hanuman and females Goddess are always in demand,” told Ved Chawla.
Telling more about the popularity of such books with youngsters, Gulshan shared, “We are very fortunate that Rev. Dada JP Vaswani has always enjoyed excellent rapport with the youth wherever he goes! His interactive Q&A sessions with them are a runaway success. And this is the reason why his books are also popular among the youth. We have had several titles devoted exclusively to youth, such as Shake Hands with Life, You can Change your Life!, India Awake! and Stop Complaining, Start Living! The reasons are not far to seek: Dada never preaches; he is never judgmental or critical; he is down-to-earth and practical; and he has a wonderful sense of humour which the young people can’t resist. Above all, Dada communicates in the language of the heart, whether he is writing in Sindhi or English. So his books have always been well received by young readers everywhere. Dada is a great believer in the power of the youth, the yuvashakti; and he connects with youth effortlessly! If you want me to put it in one word, the magic is love.”
While, Prassana of Sri Sri Publication Trust added, “Guru Ji’s every word is being transcribed and stored in a form of book and we have produced so many books till now. The best thing is, Guru Ji has majority of followers in age group 30-45 years.”
And publishers are not leaving any stone unturned to cater to these set of readers. Hence, they use all marketing strategies like promotion through internet, online mailing, printed catalogues, brochures, events like seminars, conferences and book-fairs, etc.
On ebooks vs. printed books…
RP Jain, opined, “There is slow, but steady future of printed books in the area of our specialisation, scholarly and academic publications though on a limited scale with low demand. But as the time cycle revolves around the universe, quite possibly this might change and we may see revival of printed books in big numbers. This is chiefly because the authenticity of research done in printed books is far more significant/vital than the material available on the internet which in most cases is not quite research oriented.”
While, Bikash added, “Yes there will be a market for religious and spiritual books in e-format, but I feel it will take a long time to be popular in our country.” And Dev Om explained further, “I feel nothing can replace the printed book. The feel of the paper and the way we traditionally study at schools is deep rooted in our subconscious.”
There is no doubt about the fact that this segment is really growing at steady pace. All the publishers and book sellers have witnessed a substantial growth in books of this particular category. On asking about the same, RP Jain, shared, “We are growing steadily in this segment. We have around 300 titles and we generally add 25-30 titles every year. And we are getting good response for our books from all over the world. The demand for our books is mostly from the English speaking countries.”
As per Ved Chawla, “We never see profitability in this segment. We do this as a service to God. But it doesn’t mean that we are not growing in this segment. In fact, I believe we are unique as we bring these books in a beautiful way for kids. We have around 100 titles in this segment and we are adding 10-15 titles every year. The research work that we are doing for bringing out any book is really high. We want to make it good read not only for kids but for grown-ups as well. We are promoting our books all over the world by participating in many book fairs, so we have buyers world over.”
While Gulshan shared, “We are growing really fast, but are not seeing this growth as business for us, it’s a spiritual need for the followers of our Mentor. Any corner of the world, where Dada JP Vaswani is followed…his books market is there. For every title we sell in India, we also sell the same title abroad, and we see equal interest of all titles and topics in both parts of the world.”
And Dev also added, “We are experiencing more than 100 percent growth in printed books and more than 200 percent growth in e-book segment for our publications on year to year basis. The total ratio is 50-50 but if you want to segregate them then printed books 75 percent India, 25 percent overseas and e-books 85 percent overseas and 15 percent India according to our data.”
Whereas, Prassana added, “We are growing at a steady pace of 25-30 percent every year. And we normally add around five books every year.”
“We sell books on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Vedanta Literature, Scriptures such as Upanishads, Gita, etc. and other books on spiritual life, religion, yoga, meditation, concentration, will-power, mind control, stress relief, value education, personality development, etc. We also sell books, booklets, etc. especially meant for children. The books published by all publishing houses of our Matth and Mission centres are sold through our book sales showroom,” shared Swami Ji, Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi.
On languages and authors!
Most of the titles produced by publishers are always in more than two languages and after getting good response, are published in more languages as well. “We are specialised in ancient languages like Pali, Sanskrit, etc. But the main languages are English, Hindi and Sanskrit. And most of the authors we have are established writers, who just want to get their books published under our banner,” informed RP Jain.
The Happy Foundation has titles in languages such as English, Hindi, Greek and Russian. And they have two in-house authors like Dev OM (the founder and spiritual guide) and Meni Prem Shunyam (meditation and life therapist who writes on natural and emotional healing)
“We have published 55 titles in English and Hindi. And we publish the writings of only two authors, our founder – Sadhu Vaswani and our current spiritual head, Dada JP Vaswani”, informed Gulshan.
“We publish our books in 14 Indian languages and 15 foreign languages across the world. We have around 200 book shops all over India and abroad,” told Prassana, trustee of Sri Sri Publications Trust.
“Our books are in demand world over, so we publish mainly in English and Hindi, though we also have books in regional languages like Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, etc,” Swami Ji added.
On a concluding note…
“Any book when read with a good intention always helps in getting success and these books do help in holistic development of individual,” concluded Ved.
Gita Press: epitome of religious books!
When we talk about religious books, we cannot miss to mention Gita Press. Founded in 1923 by divine inspiration to propagate the Bhagwat Gita, institution’s main objective is to promote and spread the principles of Sanatana Dharma, the Hindu religion among the general public by publishing the Bhagwat Gita, the Ramayana, the Upanishads, the Puranas and discourses of eminent saints and other character-building books and magazines and marketing them at highly subsidised prices. We can find many shops selling these books in every corner of India. One such book shop owner, Naresh Kumar, feels that it is really satisfactory to help people in getting these books.
On asking about the importance of these books and business returns, he told, “Gita Press books need no advertising…they are epitome of such publishing and I find it really good to run this shop for almost 10 years now. And yes, I am making good profits as well.”