The first major trade book fair of any new year marks an important date in most publishers' calendars. The fairs allow publishers to generate business, cement existing relationships and explore new markets. Things get rolling this year in New Delhi.
The New Delhi World Book Fair gets underway this weekend, running from February 14-22. The event offers a chance to look a bit more closely at the Indian publishing industry, which continues to grow at pace, creating many opportunities and avenues into this vibrant arena.
Already reported to be the third largest market for English language books after the U.S. and U.K., India’s continued economic rise is widely expected to propel it past Britain into second place in the not-too-distant future, and potentially even into first somewhere down the line.
This is underlined by the fact that while sales in some of the mature markets continue to stagnate, according to Nielsen BookScan data, the Indian publishing sector is said to have grown 41% since 2011, with 18 million copies sold in English, and other local languages, in the last year.
Interestingly in India, the ebook market can be considered to be several years behind the US and UK, but rights and licensing are core aspects of most Indian publishers’ business plans. In addition to this, the self-publishing market is just starting to take hold in the country.
The emergence of online retailers such as Amazon and local rival Flipkart is also major a factor behind India’s publishing boom. Unlike in many traditional territories, these invasions of the book trade appear not to be viewed with reticence. In part this may be due to a lack of physical book shops, providing fewer obstacles to market for Internet retailers.
This sustained growth can also be partly attributed to the emergence of more event-based book and author promotions, alongside a spurt in the number of national and regional literary festivals, such as the impending New Delhi Book Fair. The rich tradition of this particular fair has long played a pioneering role in highlighting the diverse and multilingual profile of the country, not to mention the strength of its publishing industry while also emphasizing the emergence of a new literary landscape.
With rights and licensing deals high on the agenda of many attendees and exhibitors, a raft of announcements regarding the buying and selling of translation rights between Indian and foreign publishers is expected. And it’s little wonder. Indian authors are certainly coming to prominence both in their homeland and abroad. As little as a decade ago commercial fiction lists would have been dominated by foreign authors, but it is now relatively uncommon to see bestsellers list flooded with western names. So what will the next breakthrough Indian work be? There is every chance that we will find out in the coming days.
Tom Chalmers is the managing director of IPR License.