The book trade in India

It’s great to be on holiday – but when travelling in any country I find myself homing in on the book shops everywhere I go! In India it’s easy : there are quite a few, ranging from the well-stocked Chands in Kahn Market in New Delhi, where Indian publishers’ titles predominate and the larger British and US publishers are broadly represented, to the tiny Stationery Store in Bundi, which sells everything for school students, including textbooks, flash cards and ancient copies of British revision guides.

Chatting with the booksellers, it’s clear that the education market is in good health, as Indian parents become ever more keen to ensure that their children succeed in school (they need to get over 95% in their final upper sixth exams across 7 or more subjects to be awarded a place at one of the very top universities). Web-mediated educational materials have not yet appeared on the horizon here, perhaps because internet access is highly variable and not universally available. eBooks are growing in popularity amongst the middle class adults we meet, though: several people we’ve encountered have a Kindle in their pocket!

Internet book selling is also small in scale as yet and may remain so for a while to come, as one of the barriers to entry is the unreliability of the postal service, which is also prone to theft. Amazon India is recruiting, though – creating large numbers of jobs in Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, so it may not be long before the Indian booksellers feel the effects of the new competition…maybe, Amazon plan to set up a secure courier service here, as well?

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