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As publishers feel the COVID-19 heat, e-readership on the rise
New Delhi, April 13, 2020
With limited opportunities for physical book sales, publishers across the world are looking to meet targets with e-books.
"The COVID-19 impact is (affecting) and will affect book industry as well. Books are never treated as essential items, which they should be, during the lockdown to engage people while they are at home. E-books are likely to see a spike in sales, but that is still a tiny fraction of the total market. But at this time, we are trying to use different platforms to sell our e-books," Usha Jha, VP (Sales), Speaking Tiger, told IANSlife.
As per Speaking Tiger's VP Publishing, Renuka Chatterjee , it's not so much the absence of physical book launches, promotions and author tours -- which in any case have limited benefits in relation to the costs involved -- but the fact that bookshops are closed, distributors are not taking orders, and people simply can't go to a bookstore to buy books.
"From that perspective, e-readership should certainly see a rise. We may also have to focus more on digital and e-books in the immediate future, to minimise printing costs and recover some of the losses we've made in this period," Chatterjee added.
Most publishers have been quick in launching social media and online campaigns to promote reading among children and adults. Penguin Random House India and Momspresso's Facebook are hosting a children's author every evening for storytelling sessions till mid-April.
As far as academic publishers are concerned, schools and colleges are closed due to the COVID-19 and while studying might have not come to a standstill, sales of school books certainly have.
"Promotions surely have slowed down since the primary target market for us is the college libraries, which are currently closed as a result of the lockdown. We believe there is going to be a short term impact on business with orders being delayed, deferred or cancelled. But in the medium term we don't think education as a whole will suffer or be allowed to suffer," Aarti David, Director Publishing, SAGE India told IANSlife.
For their reader base, the publishers believe that many of those who may not have picked up a book normally, will probably do so now as there's a limit to how much you can binge-watch OTT and TV shows.
"One can only motivate readers to read content that is relevant and helps them stay positive; be less anxious and be able to cope at this totally unprecedented time. In today's situation there is limited access to physical copies and if we do need content, the easiest way is to read it online," David added.
How can the government help? Reducing or removing taxation on broadband connections; on paper used for printing books and journals; on freelance service providers such as language editors, translators, project managers, data analysts; and on hosting services that cater to academic or school content, among others.