Roller coaster year for publishers

Despite GST, import duty and the economic slowdown, stakeholders remained upbeat

It was a roller-coaster ride for publishers in 2019, thanks mainly to the after-effects of demonistisation, GST, the import duty on books and the economic slowdown, but the stakeholders remained upbeat.

"Like every year, this year also had its fair share of opportunities as well as challenges. The economic slowdown and introduction of import duty on books were some of the new challenges we faced, but at the same time, our increased engagement on raising readers with key stakeholders is raising the opportunities for us," told Neeraj Jain, MD, Scholastic India, one of the largest publishers of academic books for children.

"While there were occasions to cheer, there were also occasions to be alarmed about. For example: GST posed a major problem to the publishers, eating away at whatever limited profit margin publishers have," told Trisha De Niyogi, Chief Operating Officer, Niyogi Books.

The year was quite challenging, an Oxford University Press (OUP) spokesperson said, adding: "However, we have done decent in terms of sales–a combination of academic and serious nonfiction titles."

"We can't say this was a blockbuster year but a good one with a significant number of prominent works and debuts by reputed scholars and researchers. Our import list has done well in the Indian market with remarkable titles such as 'Clients and Constituents' by Jennifer Bussel, 'The Absent Dialogue' by Anit Mukherjee, 'Resurgent Asia' by Deepak Nayar and 'Euro Tragedy' by Ashoka Mody. We are extremely happy with these books–in terms of both sales and reviews," the spokesperson added.

"It has been a successful year in terms of what we wanted to publish. There have been ups and downs in the business cycle. However, we have had some big authors publishing with us. We have received awards for some of our titles. Which always gives a sense of pride and achievement," Aarti David, Director (Publishing) at Sage, said.

The year ended on a great note with "lots of books appearing on good ranks at Nielsen and Amazon including 'Amit Shah and The March of BJP', 'Allahu Akbar', 'My Little Epiphanies', 'Kashmir's Untold Story', 'Dear People with Love and Care' and 'Relentless', a just to name a few." a Bloomberg spokesman said.

What were the trends noticed in 2019?

"The year saw a plethora of successful debut novels, most of them by women, continuing a trend that began last year. The health of translations also seems to be in the pink. As expected, there have been several political books that reflect current discourses, and excellent history and investigative writing as well," Teesta Guha-Sarkar of Pan Macmillan said.

Noting that Sage published in various genres targeting divergent audiences, David said: "We have found that Indian language publishing has been more challenging than we anticipated and this has been across languages and markets. Another key learning is that our customer needs more personalised attention and business transparency. The future is exciting as we begin to slice the data pie thinner."

One of great things about children's books, Scholastic's Jain said, "is that there are so many genres to work with. The trends in books are like fashion, what was popular a decade ago comes back in a new form and starts trending again.

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