TB: So there is a change in the market [.for Indian writing in English published from India ]?
RS: Yes, there has been a growth in the market but I think what has happened is that people tend to over hype this change while actually this is the expected gradual growth that should be happening anyway, considering that today there are more people who pass out from schools and colleges with some facility in English, there are more people who have money, and the percentage of this educated, moneyed population has increased.
TB: So you think that this is bound to happen in any developing country?
RS: Absolutely, it is bound to happen. And in about fifteen years, I think, the market will almost double so that explosion or the big boom is going to happen. But it will not happen overnight, it will happen over fifteen years. It is getting there now. Also, non fiction is selling more than fiction, such as the idea book or history or memoir.
SV: But in many ways the idea books or histories or memoirs are still limited and they are not generating from India. The books in non-fiction that are emerging from India are more in the nature of travel narratives. Also, non-fiction is more management oriented in India, a market which has a certain kind of spending power. And even spirituality is oriented towards a consumerist audience.
RS: Yes. Absolutely.
SV: So in that sense even non-fiction is still very limited.
RS: Yes well I do agree. In fact the only market research we got done for books was some three years ago and they did say that these books that are selling more, the non-fiction are books that people think they are getting something tangible out of. It’s going to help them get a job, its going to help them in their career. And it’s not just the management people, its also people who may not really have that much money but they think its going to help them, say, make better presentations
SV: make sense of their lives.
RS: Yes exactly. But on the other hand what happens is that for instance you have The Great Indian Middle Class by Pavan Verma, which is a huge bestseller, is an idea book located in India. Maria Couto’s book, Goa: A Daughter’s Story is a memoir plus cultural history and a bit of politics. Interesting things are happening and that book, which we wouldn’t have expected to sell at all, actually sells 2000 in hard cover and another 3000 in paperback. So non-fiction is working, but ,if you look at the fiction, how many new books are really crossing the 5000 barrier?
SV: How many are?
RS: On an average, I’d say about 10% of the fiction we publish. For new writers that is.
TB: But doesn’t that contradict our thesis that there is a boom in Indian writing in English?
RS: Well that’s what I’m saying that there isn’t any boom. There is a growth, it’s not a boom. I'd say that it has been a growth that is proportionate to the growth of the economy, an increase in the consumption patterns of the middle class, its incomes. The growth of this market has been much less than what it has been for other kinds of leisure activities or say, for mobile phones.
TB: But can we compare books to cell phones?
SV: But for a publisher, a book is a commodity like a cell phone.