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Are eBooks a no-show in India?

Any avid reader will agree that it’s not just the story that gets you hooked to a book. It’s the crispy white pages, the smell of ink and the satisfaction of snuggling up on your favourite couch that makes the reading experience worthwhile. Though the digital eBook has robbed its readers of these simple pleasures, it’s turned

books Updated: May 24, 2012 10:22 IST

Any avid reader will agree that it’s not just the story that gets you hooked to a book. It’s the crispy white pages, the smell of ink and the satisfaction of snuggling up on your favourite couch that makes the reading experience worthwhile.

Though the digital eBook has robbed its readers of these simple pleasures, it’s turned out to be one of the most popular new media of recent times. Research

suggests that they now contribute to about 30 per cent of annual book sales.

Amanda Hocking, a UK-based author started self-publishing eBooks in 2010 and has already sold more than a million copies worldwide. But while the rest of the world seems to be welcoming this change, India, which produces vast amounts of literary works, is lagging behind.

Not only are the eBook sales low here, but many Indian authors are not even releasing their works on this platform. Best-selling author Amish Tripathi was one of the many who decided not to offer his popular Shiva trilogy as eBooks. “It is only a matter of time before India catches up with the rest of the world in the current eBook frenzy. But they aren’t popular yet,” he explains.

Price isn’t right

One of the reasons for this slow pace is the high prices of eReaders and tablets. An iPad 2G tablet will cost you a cool R30,000 while the entry level Kindle eReader is for approximately R8,950.

“A person who wants to read an eBook has to first invest in these gadgets, which are so expensive. That’s why people naturally decide to stick to the traditional paperback. Once the prices of these devices come down, there will definitely be an increase in the sale of eBooks” says author Ashwin Sanghi, whose books Chanakya’s Chant and Rozabal Line are both available digitally.

Pirates ahoy!

Another contributing factor is the issue of piracy. Most books can be easily found online with the help of a good search engine. So why would anyone want to buy something that can be easily downloaded for no cost at all? Gautam Padmanaban, CEO of Westland Books, believes that fighting piracy is an on-going battle for publishers, whether they’re protecting eBooks or hard copies.

“The best deterrent will be to make eBooks available legally at the best possible prices in the shortest possible time,” he says.

“Publishing must learn from the mistakes made by the music industry, which literally handed the market to the pirates by not making legal downloads available for a very long time,” he adds.

Ashwin believes that the authors should become more careful with their work and get their copyrights registered on time: “I have sent legal notices on two instances, when my book was made accessible in a public domain without my consent.”

But Amish is optimistic about the future of the medium in the country. He says, “Given a chance, people always want to do the right thing. If eBooks are sold at the right prices, I am sure people won't hesitate in investing in them.”