Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jumpstart 2011

Briefly, here is what Radhika Menon had to say at Jumpstart 2011 in Delhi, August 24th and 25th.
Over the last two years there has been a lot of interest in the boom in the children's books market. The reports, however, are restricted to the feedback and sales figures of English language books in the bookstore chains which are by and large from the big publishing houses and distributors. What this means is that if the books are not seen in the large bookstores they don’t exist in reports or ratings. Nevertheless books by smaller, independent publishers do exist well and find their own space thanks to the efforts of the publishers themselves.
Other reports have to do with the huge disparity between the English and the Indian language children's book markets. English books certainly have the advantage in the urban markets. But the sales figures of books in some of the regional languages far exceed those of English books. There are the mass-produced, low-priced books of course, often of poor quality, which have a monopoly over government orders in the various states. Their sales run into lakhs every year.
However there are Indian language publishers who have sell their low-priced books in quantities that the English language publishers can only dream of. They sell successfully through direct marketing and distribution, school and community book fairs, small bookstores and mobile bookstores, catering to the specific needs of their buyers.
On the other hand, the chain bookstores, which have as many as 50 to 75 bookstores each across the country, stick to tried and tested strategies - a one-size-fits-all-approach. This obviously cannot adequately meet the diverse and growing demands of children's book publishing in India today. According to media reports the children's sections in these stores make up to 30% of their total sales. The books sold are the imported books that flood the market and Indian books published by the large publishing houses.
In this scenario, an independent multilingual publisher like Tulika, trying to straddle both the urban English book markets and the regional language book markets, has to find strategies for building an alternate distribution network. It’s the only way. It remains to be seen if the rapidly opening up online space offers a more Ievel playing field.


  1. Agree totally. I literally have to dig and delve deep in the recesses of the children's sections in the chain bookstores, and then only can I unearth any Tulikas. I have often lectured to some of them about why they need to keep them more accessible, and why they need better display. If people dont know about them, how will they by them is my logic.

    The other big market is the NRI populace. I have almost always gifted Tulikas to all visiting NRI friends/family and without exception they have loved them.

  2. @Choxbox: It's disheartening to hear our books have to be unearthed, and the bigger the chain, the harder it is. Especially because many of them began as bookstores and moved into merchandise in a big way, which means more and more products and less space to actually look at them. When the team was in Bangalore, we did a round of all the stores and discovered that we barely had place to stand between the shelves.(No wonder, online shopping is growing in the way it is.)

    Yes, we do have a wide NRI readership, and now have Tulika Books USA, distributing our books in the US.:)

  3. @Tulika I would appreciate knowing more on the "Indian language publishers who sell their low-priced books".
    I am not sure whether they can even be found online (I only know of one so far - Pratham)
    I have the rather ambitious goal of learning as many Indian languages as I can - and very low-priced children's books are the only option for me.
    I'd be dead if I bought each of your books in 5 languages (the south indian languages and Bangla) -- sorry cant afford it all :)
    I am keeping my fingers crossed that you might email me some information!

  4. @Vishal: Aside from Tulika and Pratham, you have National Book Trust, Delhi.They have a website, which you can check out and their range of books is usually available in the book fairs as well. Hope this was helpful!

  5. @Tulika - Thanks, yes I know of NBT too. But its not enough - knowing about the obscure non-national publishers would be awesome!!!

  6. Specifically for Tamil, Kannada, Bengali and Malayalam languages please!

  7. @Vishal: NBT publishes these languages. That aside, Pratham, which you already know.

  8. @Tulika - Yes I am aware of that too.
    But I meant original language content for the above languages - rather than translated versions of the same story across multiple languages.
    For example, information on publisher(s) in Tamil Nadu (possibly/probably just existing at the regional level) who have only original content Tamil books for children (ages 2-14).
    Btw, thanks for taking the time to read my comments and replying!

    Oh and here is another cool idea that you could implement - a daily newspaper (probably like 8 pages long) that rotates regional languages on specified days of the week or has an amalgam.
    France, Japan, Russia and China have such daily native language newspapers for children.
    It would be fantastic to see something like that in India.

    English should not wipe out other languages! I guess India is not much of a book reading nation when compared to Russia for example - so not many people care.


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