How COVID is changing the game plan for booksellers, publishers

In the future, publishers will need to think of digital immersive marketing just like marketing a movie or show on Netflix is an immersive experience.

After two months of minimal print sales, the publishing industry is turning the page with operational guidelines for printers, suppliers, warehouses, distributors, and wholesalers for a business dominated by brick-and-mortar sales.

The lockdown may be over in most markets, but the aftereffects are being felt now.

 

The iconic Full Circle bookstore in Khan Market in New Delhi has closed a two-decade-old chapter, boding ill for a business in a world focused on high touch zones, social distancing, and air ventilation to prevent the spread of a contagion.

Amrita Somaiya, owner of Kitab Khana in Mumbai, says, “It has been a difficult time for us. We don’t have an online sales platform. We don’t sell anything but books.”

Presently, Kitab Khana is open for limited hours, but only with kerbside pick-up and home delivery and no in-store browsing.

Most publishers report high online sales, zero offline sales, and deferred schedules.

“It’s difficult to predict when the sector will bounce back.

“It will depend on how consumers view discretionary spends in the coming months as we face the twin challenges of controlling the pandemic while ramping up economic activity,” said Thomas Abraham, chief executive officer (CEO), Hachette India.

Hachette’s online sales jumped 90 per cent in the past few months.

Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO, HarperCollins India, says his online sales have also soared 100 per cent and “it started publishing books as e-books in May”.

Across the industry, print versus digital is 95 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively.

Others see similar trends.

Gautam Padmanabhan, CEO of Westland Publications, says, “We have seen initial surge, especially in the category of children’s books (as stores opened selectively),” adding, “during the three phases of the lockdown, the sale of books virtually stopped.

“It is during Lockdown 4.0 that we saw gradual opening of offline stores and resumption of online supplies (even in red zones).”

Meanwhile, most will resume business by end-June.

Nandan Jha, senior vice-president-product & sales, Penguin Random House, says it normally releases between 200 and 250 books a year, but has down-shifted to release 100 new titles till December.

The big ones will include fiction, including a collection of essays titled Azaadi by Arundhati Roy and new memoirs by Ruskin Bond, he said.

How…

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