Monday, June 6, 2016

Why do Indians buy fewer books or spend less money on reading

This post's title suggests that Indians read a lot, it is just that they do not buy enough new books.
As this question on Quora suggests( other people have the some question to which Ashutosh suggests the following reasons for people to read less books, Books are a relatively new concept to Indians, Reading books till date remains restricted to elite section of society, daily life in India is full of distractions and keeps people busy throughout the day. Also, he feels that newspapers are more popular as also sites like Quora. Lastly, even for those Indians who want to read, there are few non fiction/popular series books. 

While I agree with Ashutosh regarding the present situation, I add 3 more points and then explain why I feel this will improve. Three more reasons for less sale of books

  1. Piracy-It is easy to download books and it translates to Indian preference of screen reading
  2. Digital Editions Pricing-In India, there is often just a 10% gap between paperback and ebook, as compared to ~50% abroad. 
  3. Indian edition expensive and delayed-While publishers are waking up to the market potential and pricing affordable paperbacks, this often comes AFTER the foreign release. As Hollywood producers have learnt to their expense, anything short of a simultaneous release runs the risk of piracy

However, the situation is improving due to

  1. Kindle Unlimited-At just Rs 199/month(or Rs 150 if you take an annual subscription), you can read 2Mn ebooks. While maybe just 0.01% of them may be good, it is still 200 books for you to read, many of them foreign editions otherwise not available in print. 
  2. Experiments with Distribution-New formats such as short/mobile first novels are coming
  3. Expanded distribution-Recently, I saw a shelf of fiction/non fiction at a stationary shop, which is an encouraging sign
  4. Indian corporate novels-This trend is increasing and now people have an option beyond the Chetan Bhagat's/Ravi Subramanian's of the world. 
  5. Pricing-Many books now in the sweet spot of 100-300 which is a movie ticket cost. Considering both are 2-3hr experiences, this is now comparable. 
  6. Rising disposable incomes and urbanization-This allows for more books-albeit a negative due to issue with storage of novels in rented or small houses
  7. Reduced Piracy-Piracy DOES happen-in fact it has reached the suburb of Mulund(as versus only hubs earlier), but for a much lower range of bestsellers-it does not affect the long tail.

The rise of white collar crime fiction and business novels in India

My first introduction to business novels came with Eli Goldratt's books-The Goal etc. Then further it progressed to real life biographies and exposes which were enjoyable, however nothing beats the fun of reading corporate life through novels.

As RV Raman puts it "
The stakes are high too. A person who is worth a million dollars in his private life may be running a 500 million dollar business. A banker who may be worth even less, could be handling a loan portfolio worth billions. A peculiarity of banking is that ordinary men and women handle vast amount of other people’s wealth. Billions upon billions of dollars of it...If a banker falls to temptation and siphons off a small part of the money he oversees, he can gain a lot more than he can hope to gain by any deception in his private life. The potential payoffs for crime, especially white-collar crime, is huge"

Without much ado, let me list the books I have come across and particularly liked
1)Sialkot Saga-by Ashwin-this book is like a Kane/Abel one, but also centres around corporate crime and stock market manipulation. Don't go by the name-this was awesome
2)Fraudster-RV Raman-The book by an EX KPMG forensic audit expert, gives an idea into how NPAs are created and what could go wrong. Looking forward to his 2nd book-'Insider'
3)Ravi Subramanian-all books centre around banking world and crimes therein
4)Upendra Namburi-'31'
5)Ready..Steady Exit-this book by PC Balasubramanian outlines the story of 2 friends who set up their CA firm, and ultimately F&A outsourcing. Fun read
6)Ticking Times-an accountant and a Gentleman-this book by V Pattabi Ram seems a good read on life as a corporate auditor.

Foreign authors
1) Peter Ralph-Revenge of the CEO, White Collar Blackmail-these centre around stock market manipulation mainly
2) Stephen Fry-all books-these centre around private equity funds, and their portfolio companies