Vernacular books see virtual boom
Online bookstores may have brought about the demise of many a brick-and-mortar rival across the world, but in India they’re responsible for another trend: a boom in sales of vernacular literature. Manoj Sharma reports.delhi Updated: Jul 22, 2012 02:17 IST
Online bookstores may have brought about the demise of many a brick-and-mortar rival across the world, but in India they’re responsible for another trend: a boom in sales of vernacular literature.
Consider this: online retailer Flipkart’s sales of Hindi and regional language books have multiplied tenfold in the past year. It’s no exception — its peers are also reporting a surge in interest in literature often relegated to the back shelves of conventional bookshops. Better still, young readers are being drawn to buy these books, opening up a whole segment of the market.
“Online bookstores have changed the entire ecosystem of language publishing in the past couple of years,” says Pranav Johri, marketing director of Rajpal & Sons, a leading Hindi publisher. He sold around 20,000 copies of various Hindi books in 2010-11, and the next year this number rose to 45,000 copies. “This year we hope to sell about 75,000 copies through online bookstores only,” says Johri, who has tie-ups with online retailers Flipkart, Infibeam and HomeShop 18.
Bengali and Marathi language publishers too are witnessing a boom in business. “There is a rise of about 40% in our annual sales after we tied up with Flipkart last year. Online bookstores have introduced a young, tech-savvy generation of readers to language literature,” says Indirani Roy, director, Mitra & Ghosh Publishers, a Kolkata-based publishing house of Bengali books. Their major market of Bengali books outside Bengal is Delhi, says Roy.
This interest in Indian language literature is not a one off.
“We have lots of repeat customers for all Indian language books, confirming our view that there is a huge market for them," says Ankit Nagori, VP (retail), Flipkart. Hindi (40%), Bengali (22%) and Marathi (20%) accounted for the lion's share of Flipkart's surging local language sales.
His view is supported by Neeru Sharma, corporate development director at Infibeam, another prominent online book retailer, "There is a rise of about 28% in sales of language books through our website compared to last year. We are shipping these books to both tier-1 and tier-2 cities. The buyers are generally in the 20-35 age group and many of those who buy English language books also order regional language books."
And what are the best-selling books on Flipkart? They're classics like Madhushala by Harivansh Rai Bachchan in Hindi, Feluda Shamagra by Satyajit Ray in Bengali, Batatyachi Chal by PL Deshpande in Marathi.
In fact, in Hindi publishing, where a book that sells about 2,000 copies is considered a bestseller, Madhushala sells about 25,000 copies a year.