There has been a lot of speculation about e-books in India following the launch of Amazon Kindle. Some believe it will pick the way e-commerce has picked up. But the question is ‘Will it?’ Sahil Gupta, director, V&S Publishers gives his rational viewpoint. Skeptics doubt on its success in India, where a majority of people find hard to buy even printed books. No doubt e-books will find its moorings in India. But for that to happen, the industry has to keep pace with emerging technologies. Concerning the popularisation of e-books in the country, publishers in India try to forcefully push them into big city or metropolitan markets. But they (publishers) must look for ways to best serve the smaller towns wherein availability of printed books is still a big concern.
A new challenge…
Are e-books any better than printed/physical ones? It has been pointed out that inferences in the western countries like the US and UK suggest that e-books are reasonably well received there. This attitudinal change is dawning on India too. Indian publishers will increase publishing e-books as acceptability of this new version of book is multiplying in metropolises. However, we still have a long way to go to get full awareness of e-books.
Publishers must not lose sight of ground realities while keeping pace with technological advances by delivering printed books to smaller towns and villages in time and in sufficiently large numbers. National Book Trust (NBT), India has endeavoured to educate consumers about e-books during the recent New Delhi World Book Fair 2013. In the contemporary book markets of the US and UK have somewhat comparable sales between physical and e-books. But in case of the Indian market, time will tell about the full-fledged development of e-books because ours is a mix market of both urban and rural.
It perfectly looks that e-books along with printed ones will go hand-in-hand. Encouraging publishing industry through governmental incentives, international partnerships and e-book education etc would be the additional requirement in the present context. “Eventually, these efforts will pay off when a genuine push from each of the stakeholders - government, publishers, schools and colleges coming in unison,” mentioned Sahil summing up to underline the need of collective efforts of the industry players and other related departments or organisations.
New technologies offer readers a whole new learning experience, observes Sunil Kumar of Oxford Software Institute. Enhanced e-books are coming and will only get better:
With interactivity integrated in the future e-books, the whole paradigm of book reading will be redefined. Some features of future e-books will encompass helping readers learn a new language with audio inputs, run the reader through the steps of, say, a house hold job- like fixing a home appliance or a leaky faucet etc. Infact, analysts are envisaging enhanced-feature design of e-Books that allow readers to customize the content to his needs. Live exchange with reading groups where the reader can also interact with the author is another feature that would offer the readers a rich experience.
The device war is nearly over!
Prolificity of devices, like Sony e-reader, iLex, Kindle or iPad, Galaxy Tab or other Android tablet is leaving the consumers confused. For most of the people, mobile phone is good for reading just about anything, in coming days the consumer choice will gravitate towards select leaders in the market.
The arrival of e-reader software which can be ported across devices, importance of the device will be relegated. Of more interest to the readers will be the e-reader software features, title portability across devices and access to full catalogue of titles. E-books with interactive features mentioned above giving enriching and empowering experience will be readily lapped up by the readers.
The contextual up-sell will be a business model to watch
Another interesting feature could well be the contextual up-sell of the book where the e-book customers can interact with the publishers. Likely scenario could be a student learning econometrics can’t get a formula to move on; with no help around, a help button, via the publisher’s site helps him download the relevant material for the problem for a certain cost. Likely thousands of students may need to download similar material bringing more business for the publisher. Hence up-selling through the e-book or in-book application purchase offers an interesting marketing opportunity.
Publishers will gain more importance than ever
Contrary to the perception in some quarters, well-researched, authentic, edited and high-quality vetted content will always command a premium, widely from the discerning readers, notwithstanding the proliferation of self-publishing on the web. With the profusion of content on the web, the expert content providers who aggregate, contextualize information efficiently and provide highly accurate and specific search options will always be sought and paid handsomely.
New benchmarks in e-book publishing will be set by those with expertise and resources in these and emerging areas.
While most of the libraries have a policy of buying e-journals, not many libraries in India go for e-books, a trend catching up fast in the West. What are the issues and challenges in the e-book market, how can these be solved and how can libraries become an insight into innovation, finds out Varsha Verma at a recently concluded seminar on ‘World of e-books.’
Balani Infotech Pvt Ltd recently organized a seminar on ‘World of e-books’ in New Delhi. The programme kicked off with the welcome address by Kailash Balani, managing director, Balani Infotech Pvt Ltd. The programme was chaired by Dr HK Kaul, director, Developing Library Network (DELNET), Delhi. He also gave a background and introduction to e-books. “E-journals have already been accepted but e-books still need to get attention,” he said. Listing the challenges in the Indian market, Paul said that there are more than 18 published languages and content needs to be digitized in these languages. “Then, there is a problem of standardization; dozens of formats are available. Besides, the problem of pricing and licensing also pose issues,” he added.
“The need,” he said, “is to make e-books attractive for users. The administrators and librarians across the country need to buy certain percentage of books as e-books, then only they will become popular. Besides, publishers need to select content for e-books as per the demand and should make the pricing very attractive for the masses. And of course, technology should be user-friendly.”
While, Jagdish Arora, director, Information And Library Network (INFLIBNET) discussed on issues and challenges in e-books. He first gave an overview of e-books, the role of PDAs, eink and the evolution of e-books content. He also emphasized the role of reading devices like smartphones, kindle, e-book readers, ipads, etc, in making e-books popular. He informed that e-books already outnumbered the printed books; there are almost three million e-books in World Electonic Library as against 1.6 million printed books. “And the difference is increasing constantly,” he said. “Project Gutenberg has 40,000 e-books; ebrary has 70,000 e-books while World Electronic Library has three million e-books in its inventory.” He also mentioned the role of ‘print on demand’ where books can be digitally printed on demand.
Arora also mentioned that almost 67 percent of e-books sales are in USA. Talking about the types of e-books available, he informed that e-books can be of three types – first is the e-version of the printed books; second is books with multimedia content like simulation, animation, etc and third are audio books. He also outlined the pros and cons of e-books, focusing on the digital rights management. He also mentioned about the N-list programme, wherein they are buying e-books for 2,500 colleges.
Another interesting presentation was made by Walter Kny, Global Strategic Partnerships, director, World e-books. His presentation focused on innovation leadership for librarians…reinventing e-book management to maximize users’ research creativity output. According to him, the role of libraries is evolving from being a research info centre to the place for insight for innovation. “There are 22,000 universities in the world and masses still prefer print. But it is interesting to note that Amazon recently sold more e-books than print books. Infact, now people are reading more books through e-books which comprises one-third of the total publishing industry,” he added.
Walter also shared a few researches wherein it was shown that e-books are number three source of research, the first two positions taken up by Google and printed books respectively. He said that most of the students do not even know that they have e-books in their library and they are happy with the content they find on the search engines. “This is because the websites of libraries are either not user-friendly or there are dead links,” he said.
He suggested that libraries need to make their websites easy to navigate, should have one online catalogue and should involve the community through ‘ask the expert’ sections, et al. Walter also shared how they could create a database of over two million rare and research e-books in the last 16 years. They are likely to add one million ebooks by January 2013, making it world’s largest e-book library. He also mentioned that their collection also has e-books from some of the best universities like Harvard University Press, MIT, California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Chicago University, Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press, etc. The collection has e-books in over 100 foreign lanugages including e-books in Hindi and Tamil.
The seminar was attended by over 85 participants including senior librarians like, Dr Gayas Makhdhumi, Dr S Arora, Dr S Jindal, Dr Sanjay Kataria, Dr Sangeeta Kaul, Dr S Majumdar, Dr Subhash Deshmukh, Dr S Ganguly, Dr JP Srivastava, and others.
Online book libraries - a boon for i-gen Are you a bookworm, who’s always looking for new titles at every book shop, library or book bazaar? Or are you tired of going from shop to shop and rack to rack in search of your favourite book? If yes, than there’s a good news for you…your favourite book is just a click away! With a new trend of online book rental sites, one can browse books online and get them home-delivered. Smita Dwivedi brings more about this latest trend. In today’s internet-era, we all prefer online services for our convenience …be it bill payments, shopping or misc-bookings. With increasing internet usage in the country a new trend was bound to emerge for book world as well. The latest addition to this list is Online Book Rental services. This is gaining popularity in India, with a number of websites offering free doorstep delivery for a small monthly fee. It is estimated that India is the world's third-largest market for English books and the online book market in India is expected to grow at 30-35 percent annually in the next five years. With such promising facts, we feel there is much more to explore.
Here’s how three online libraries – Booklease.in, Bookmeabook.com and friendsofbooks.com came into being and are flourishing, quenching the thirst of readers.
Smita Dwivedi (SD): How was the idea of online library conceived?
Dr S Barman Roy (Booklease): The thoughts behind this initiative were two, first to make expensive book (original) easily available to as many as possible, secondly to save on paper and maximize usage of a book.
I am a business consultant and during my engagement/assignments with different companies I transfer skills to them and train them, however I found that employees were not well read and did not know what books (management books) should they be reading or what will help them increase their knowledge beyond what I was helping them learn. Because the books were expensive, they did not buy the books that I would recommend them. So, I started giving them my personal books (I have a small library of about 1,000 books, all personal). But I realized that they were not taking care of the books and did not value the books and as a result they got damaged. So I started charging a token amount from them and eventually tied with company for using my books for a small amount. Thus Booklease Services was formed and then www.booklease.com came into existence.
Nidhi Verma (BookMeABook): We started our services to provide free door-to-door delivery and pickup for reading comfort. Books are delivered to readers and one can read at one’s own pace – without having to worry about library fines or renewal hassles. Our driving philosophy is simplicity in reading. Worry only about which books you want to read!
Arti Jain (www.friendsofbooks.com): Manish Kumar and I (co-founders of FriendsOfBooks) both are avid readers. We lived in the US for several years where the network of public libraries and used books stores is great. When we moved to India we saw a gap in the library and used bookstore market and tried to fill it for ourselves and for people like us. FriendsOfBooks is an online book rental library, a.k.a circulating library or lending library where booklovers can rent a book online. They can choose from thousands of fiction and nonfiction books.
SD: What keeps you going?
Dr S Barman Roy: As I said, the idea was to make knowledge available at ease and that too not through pirated books. Also, I was thinking for long to do something for the environment. This was an initiative which would help us save trees as well.
Nidhi Verma: We already have two bookshops in Delhi (Connaught Place and Karol Bagh). Both the shops are in Central Delhi, in areas which have become busy business districts. A lot of our regular customers are based in satellite areas of Delhi like Noida and Gurgaon, so we thought a home delivery service would be appropriate to service them, as well as increase our client base and thus began this service in October 2004.
Arti Jain: Our mission is to make reading an easier, enjoyable experience for book lovers. We also have a USED BOOKS store where booklovers can buy used books at great discounts.
SD: How does this online books service works on rent?
Dr S Barman Roy: People sign up (package), select the book they want, drop an email to us and we deliver the books or pick up old books.
Nidhi Verma: It’s a simple online process. Our entire catalogue is available for view online, and you can simply register and pay online, and begin to order books from home at the click of a button. Just go onto the site, www.bookmeabook.com and see our five plans, and then register. We have a minimum plan of Rs 100 and it goes up to Rs 500 as per the plan. And we have a refundable security deposit Rs 500.
Arti Jain: Members can browse books online, pick the ones they like and we send them the books. Our plans start at Rs 200 per month. We offer a variety of plans. You will find all the plans on our website under "How it Works."
SD: How are books delivered to people…how long they can keep and how do they return the books?
Dr S Barman Roy: We deliver the books at their place in NCR. However, for places outside NCR we use courier as a mode of delivery. We prefer a time period of about a month. But we really do not have a cap on the time period.
Nidhi Verma: We take the help of a local courier company to have the books delivered. Since we have a monthly subscription fee, the reader can keep books as long as they like, and we have no late fees. Books are picked up when we deliver the next set of books for the member.
Arti Jain: Books are delivered via our delivery persons as well as courier partners. Members can keep books for as long as they like as long as they pay their monthly/six monthly/annual dues. When a member is done reading the books, they simply click on a button and we send them a new set of books and pick up the old ones.
SD: What are your criteria to select a book and how do you source them?
Dr S Barman Roy: We deal primarily with management books and that too operational excellence, the reason being that we help organizations improve profits and drive excellence in their operations. I personally search for books, read them and then decide its usage.
Nidhi Verma: We source books from our regular suppliers which we have been using for our bookshop, Ram Gopal Sharma and Son. We select books in terms of popularity and interest. If we feel a book would interest our readers, we make sure we include it in our catalogue. We ensure to add new titles frequently, and also take suggestions from our readers.
Arti Jain: We buy books from distributors. Our selection is based on what’s new and what’s popular as well as classics. Our members also suggest titles to us all the time. We offer genuine books. We do not do e-books.
SD: What kind of people generally ask for this service? Are there a few regular ones as well?
Dr S Barman Roy: Primarily engineers, management trainees, managers, CEO, etc. Some of them are regular as well typically operational excellence managers are regular.
Nidhi Verma: We have readers of all age brackets. We have a lot of young readers, since we have a strong children's books collection. People with busy schedules, who are pressed for time and cannot make a trip out of their homes/offices form the majority of our clientele. We have a strong reader base, most of whom have been members with us for a long period of time.
Arti Jain: Our members are very varied. We have young office goers, elderly retired persons, people from the armed forces, school going kids and college students’ et al. A lot of our members have been with us right from the start. Many new ones join every day.
SD: In your opinion… What is the future for it?
Dr S Barman Roy: There is definitely a future, provided we take it to the next level. The next level would be a virtual platform of books where everybody will share his/her books and by exchanging/selling books, people will also be able to make some money. Booklease wants to eventually only be a mediator and help people come together to share their small library with the world and out of it. We will take care of the logistics and take a small percentage of the transaction. That’s how we want to grow.
Nidhi Verma: I think the service has a good future… Kindle and ipad notwithstanding. People do read, and with the inflow of so many good books being written lately, the good old reading habit is still going strong. Of course, reading has declined over the last few years, but services like ours will, I am sure, go a long way in encouraging people to read. The prohibitive prices of books these days is often talked about, but initiative like library services can be an easy solution for people who like to read.
Arti Jain: As our lives get busier and time is on premium, an online lending library will be more and more of a requirement. I see a great future for it.
SD: Any message you would like to give to our readers?
Dr S Barman Roy: Start reading. Share books and write books. It’s important to gain knowledge and know what people think and books are the best medium.
Nidhi Verma: Well, our tagline says it all. Come to BookMeABook to Rediscover Reading.
Arti Jain: A book is your best friend…and we are friend of books.
More than 20 speakers...jam packed conference halls – the atmosphere was electrifying at the recently held e-publishing seminar, concurrent to the New Delhi World Book Fair. Excerpts. On the sidelines of the New Delhi Word Book Fair, the e-publishing seminar was successfully organised by W3C India and Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP), managed by SPH Consultancy & eServices Pvt Ltd and S Media Group, with active support from All About Book Publishing. Split in two half days, the seminar was held on March 1-2, 2012. Both the days saw the hall jam-packed with audience who wished to know more about the e-publishing – content creation, new technologies, etc.
The inaugural session…
The seminar began with an inaugural session, with chief guest Swaran Lata, country manager, W3C India while MA Sikandar, director, NBT was the guest of honour. Other dignitaries present at the dais were Pradeep Gupta, CMD, CyberMedia; Sudhir Malhotra, president, FIP; Ramesh K Mittal, chairman (Books, Publication and Printing Panel) CAPEXIL, and Pramil Mittal, president, Delhi State Booksellers’ and Publications’ Association (DSBPA).
While, Swarn Lata introduced the e-publishing standards through a presentation and the work that W3C India is doing for the implementation of these standards, Sikandar welcomed this initiative and reiterated his commitment to work with the standards body and help popularise and implement the same in NBT and its constituent network.
Sudhir Malhotra of FIP welcomed the guests and thanked them to have taken precious time from their busy schedule to be at the seminar. He raised the practical problems of book piracy and the dilemma of which standards to adopt and which platforms/devices to adopt for e-publishing. He was thankful to W3C India for giving useful information on the standards in the e-publishing space which would help the publishers and the audience to make an informed choice.
Ramesh Mittal spoke briefly of the kind of potential e-publishing has, considering the huge untapped export markets, not just in developed countries but also developing countries. He also invited the participants to come forward and participate in other international publishing events which CAPEXIL is organising in the next few months.
Pradeep Gupta shared the journey of CyberMedia of last 26 years in the areas of e-publishing activities of the company. While, the magazine business has an e-published version for most of the print magazines of the group; he mentioned that their GLOBAL SERVICES magazine is only e-published (no print version) for world- wide audiences. He also mentioned that a division of CyberMedia handles outsource development of books and magazines content in electronic mode spanning Legal, Technology and Generic content. The power of e-publishing can be exploited if you re-examine the power of each channel and what/how the content has to be purposed to take the maximum advantage. He shared that BBC has made it mandatory for every news item which is produced to develop the 140 char version of same for distribution through twitter and a small clip for promotion through Youtube. Back home, he shared the success of the “Kolavari Di” song by offering the free download partially but charging for the full version of the song and making huge amount of money by advertising, etc.
The e-publishing session…
The e-publishing session was chaired by Dolly Bhasin, MD, SPH Consultancy & eServices Pvt Ltd. She indicated that the publishing industry has been witnessing a paradigm shift from print to digital publishing. The basic trends in e-publishing and the segments which can be tapped, various aspects of e-publishing and the trends were discussed by a panel of veterans from the industry - MM Sharma, head competition law, Vaish Associates Advocates;
Leonard Fernandes, Cinnamon Teal; Adi Jain, Digiraatis; Abhaya Agarwal, founder, Pothi.com; and Dr Brijesh Kumar, Digital Media Initiatives.
While Sharma elaborated the legal aspects of e-publishing, Leonard touched upon the new emerging formats of e-publishing. Adi Jain shared his experiences of working on digital content for projects at the World Bank and African school children while Abhaya Agarwal emphasised the role of electronic distribution of the e-published content to reach untapped global markets. Dr Brijesh shared his experiences as a publishing BPO operation as well as an e-distribution platform for e-publishing and his tryst with e-books.
Session on e-content creation & new technologies…
A rapid change is occurring in content creation approaches and underlying publishing technologies. The choice of multiple devices like PCs, e-book readers, smart phones and tablets force a publisher to adapt to these new developments. The next session on e-content creation & new technologies discussed some of these trends.
The session was chaired by Satish Jha, OLPC India Foundation and presentations were made on the experiences of e-publishing Legal Content by Shuchita Singhal, COO, Manupatra and on the software suites of the Adobe Digital Solutions by Mayank Kool of Adobe Systems.
The sessions ended with a promise to meet the next day to have more intense deliberations on the issues of e-publishing.
Session on e-publishing on day 2...
The second day of the seminar began in the Hall 14 and after the welcome address by SM Dutt, technical editor of S Media group, the programme format was introduced by Dolly and the technical sessions were initiated.
The session of the second day was on e-publishing, which was chaired by Dolly Bhasin, MD, SPH Consultancy & eServices Pvt Ltd. She shared that the basic e-publishing industry can be looked upon as composed of e-books, e-magazines, e-documents and e-newspapers. While in US the e-books have already surpassed the physical book sales in 2011, other countries have still not fully adopted the same. She also shared some of the statistics of the e-book sales and the major target segments and devices on which they are being offered.
Various aspects of e-publishing and the trends were then discussed by a panel of veterans from the Industry, which included Shantanu Dash, MosPay Pvt Ltd; Leonard Fernandes, Cinnamon Teal; Adi Jain, Digiraatis and Dr Brijesh Kumar, Digital Media Initiatives.
Shantanu discussed the importance of Mobile Publishing and some of the key reasons why e-publishers need to adapt it in the Indian context. He also urged the educational e-publishers to consider offering e-versions of their content to the new generation of students.
While, Leonard discussed how self-publishing and on demand publishing works with the special reference to book publishing. He emphasised that special business models like subscription services and digitization services can be offered to schools. Adi Jain stated that mobile and new devices are here to stay and valuable content needs to be made available through e-publishing for this huge untapped opportunity across the globe. He urged that Indian publishers should rise to the opportunity and create their own niche.
Dr Brijesh shared his vast experience in e-publishing and shared the emerging standards being adopted by publishers in India for offshore as well as new e-published work.
Session on E-Publishing Standards and Education E-Publishing…
This session was chaired by Swaran Lata, country manager, W3C India. She shared the basic e-publishing standards and the work being done on implementing these standards in India. Various aspects of standards and their implementation were then discussed by a panel of veterans from the industry – Prashant Verma, W3C India; Jaya Jha, Pothi.com; Satish Jha, OLPC India Foundation and Sangeeta Mehra, VRVirtual.
The open source content in education in particular and e-publishing in general were discussed by Satish Jha, who iterated that educational content needs to be made available to young children in an interesting and engaging manner. He shared the experience of Nepal who have adopted OLPC in local language for the entire early school system.
Sangeeta Mehra discussed some of the nuances of educational publishing in India through her experiences with Pearson, VRVirtual Bookshop and other educational initiatives. While Prashant shared the work being done on Indian languages standards and sought the industry to work with them to consolidate the effort by providing their valuable inputs.
While, Jaya Jha discussed the various myths of going digital. She iterated that every publisher needs to plan their journey to go digital. Some may just consider the strategy to experiment with few new titles, some may try the same with low print run titles, or as they deem fit considering their business. She also indicated that piracy is not just restricted to e-publishing, any book can be pirated whether printed or e-published. The main reason of piracy in e-publishing is due to non-availability of the content in some geographies, or the price is too high or the DRM protected copies are too complicated for readers.
Session on e-content creation, new technologies & self publishing…
This session was also chaired by Dolly Bhasin. A rapid change is occurring in content creation approaches and underlying publishing technologies. The choice of multiple devices like PCs, e-book readers, smart phones and tablets force a publisher to adapt to these new developments. The session introduced the concepts of crowd sourcing, Google Books, self publishing and talking pens. The panelists for the session were Himanshu Giri, CEO, Pratham Books; Ajay Malhotra, strategic partnerships, Google Books; Sairee Chahal, co-founder, Fleximoms and Manish Rajoria, director, Aadarsh.
Flexible work options for women in publishing were elaborated by Sairee Chahal. She also shared her experiences in working with new tools and methods to source content through blogs, twitter and other social media. Malhotra shared the information pertaining to Google Books and how selective e-published documents were being shown to readers for them to take decision to aid the book buying process, which is further helped by independent reviews of the books.
While Himanshu, in his deliberation explained how Pratham Books is crowd sourcing the content for their children books from the community. Last but not the least, Manish Rajoria showcased the talking pen technology which would make the printed books more accessible to the readers (especially young and illiterate) by reading the text aloud for benefit of many listeners at the same time.
The vote of thanks was delivered by S K Khurana, editor, S Media Group, who thanked all the panelists and the participants for making this seminar a success and formally closing the seminar.