Recession-hit readers in the US and Britain are spending less and less on books, forcing English language publishers to eye overseas markets, particularly India, to stay afloat.
While the US and Britain are still the largest markets for English language publishers, growth has petered out. The US market was worth an estimated $24.3 billion in 2008 while sales in Britain were about three billion pounds. But that year, book sales by volume in the US dropped six per cent compared to 2007.
In Britain, the volume was down by four per cent. In contrast, the demand for English language books is booming in the third largest market — India, which has been growing at 10 per cent a year.
Research by UK Trade & Investment (UKT&I) and the Publishers Association estimates that the market was worth about $1.25 billion in 2007, with publishers estimating that English language books contributed about half that amount, reports The Guardian.
In comparison, the Chinese market was worth about seven billion pounds in 2007, but its English language market is smaller than India’s and British exports to the country are worth only about 10 million pounds. No wonder India spells good news for publishers hit hard by the financial crisis.
Random House, for example, has said the record-breaking first print run of 6.5 million copies of The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown’s sequel to The Da Vinci Code, will include over half a million for overseas territories, including India and South Africa, a record for a new fiction title.
Later this month Hachette is joining Penguin, HarperCollins and Random House by publishing its first book in India — My Friend Sancho by Amit Varma.
Publishers are also noticing a new mainstream literary culture that has transformed book-reading from the preserve of an educated elite into a cerebral leisure activity for the country’s emerging chattering classes, The Guardian report noted.