Saturday, August 07, 2010

Mass Paperback Publisher Goes All Digital

A friend forwarded an article from The Wall Street Journal, about a mass market paperback publisher Dorchester completely switching to e-books and print-on-demand books.

I was expecting this to happen. Though some authors will feel aggrieved, they will all come around. More publishers will move to this model of a cheap e-book and an expensive print-on-demand printed book. Those who don't like gadgets will have to pay a premium for the on-demand printed versions.

This is a bad news for the book shops. In all the developed countries, this will speed up the closure of book shops. We will still need the publishers for a while as they bring in the editorial capabilities. Online gatherers like Amazon will flourish. If this trend continues, even the Publishers will be history, as freelance editors can ply in their trade and authors can become self-publishers. However, in such a scenario I do not know how 'super-star' authors can be created. Probably through trending in twitter?

In India, print books will stay on for at least another decade (probably more). Devices take longer to spread across in India. Credit cards and other online payment mechanisms are still under-developed. Book reading habit itself has not spread widely. But if schools start adapting e-books and an ipad like device - books and notebooks rolled into one; the younger generation may jump to e-books straight away.

Today, the single biggest problem for a regional publisher like us is to manage our inventory and constantly reprint books that go out of stock. We need to be very careful about the number of copies printed. Too many and you lock in capital and you have the risk of unsold copies. Too little and you have rush for a reprint immediately. Cost of paper keeps going up. Warehouse cost and handling cost keep going up.

We don;t publish all the books we would like to, simply because we do not know whether the cost of printing them will be recouped back. We are unsure how we can distribute a book, at low print runs. E-books eliminate these risks. There is no need to stock anything and yet you have an unlimited stock. You can take up riskier books. You can crank up more titles.

Provided you have the readers who can access the books and pay for them.

We are working on our own E-book strategy, and may in the coming months release some new titles only in the E-book format. We may probably move a whole lot of our older books (which sell very little) into E-book and POD only model like Dorchester (the e-book version will be cheap, the POD version, expensive).

Monday, August 02, 2010

Commonwealth Games

I have a deep fear that Commonwealth Games will turn out to be a disaster. That it will be so for our sportspersons is reasonably known. We will win under 10 gold medals and will finish 4th - as always. We are unlikely to do any better; though chances of finishing lower always exist.

It is the organizing of the game that I am worried about the most. Newspapers talk about every conceivable problem. A stadium leaking rain water minutes after it was opened by two senior ministers in the Indian Government, a temporary roof at a table tennis court collapsing, Chairman of the organizing committee Suresh Kalmadi unable to pull his foot out of his mouth, BCCI refusing to accede to the 'donation' request of Rs 100 crores, allegations of corruption, Indian High Commissioner in UK suggesting that a letter shown by Kalmadi may be a fake, Kalmadi's own party members attacking him... the list is endless.

Amidst the usual chaos that is so natural to India, Delhi is witness to a lot of structures coming up. How many of them will be finished on time, how many of them will be safe for the athletes and the spectators and how many of them will be useful to the people afterward?

During the World Classical Tamil Conference in Coimbatore in June 2010, Coimbatore airport was to sport a new look as thousands were expected to come from all over the world, including the President of India, Pratibha Patil. But we could see unfinished concrete blocks, jutting iron rods and an unfinished pathway through which buses full of passengers were driven through. One month after the event, the situation was still the same. Likewise, much of Coimbatore saw superficial improvements probably incapable of withstanding a few spells of rain.

Will it be the same in Delhi too?

Will it offer anything of lasting value to the residents of Delhi? Will we ensure that we will not be a laughing stock in front of the world, when the games start?