The Kannada book industry is thriving with each passing year, but quality remains a major concern. The number of Kannada publication houses has increased, but the reading community hasn’t grown much.
There are over 1,000 publication houses across the state, but only around 100 publication houses publish books of quality. “The reading habit hasn’t diminished, but has grown in proportion to the population. However, the growth of the reading community doesn’t match the number of publication houses,” Na Ravikumar of Abhinava Prakashana says.
“Like music, reading attracts fewer people. The industry is slowly witnessing the digitisation process slowing down the expansion of reading community,” he says.
Many publishers say there are hardly any best-selling authors in Kannada at present. “Only two writers — S L Bhyrappa and Sai Suthe — are in demand now. Absence of masters like Kuvempu,
Tejaswi, P Lankesh and U R Ananthamurthy has hit the growth of the reading community,” says Guruprasad of Akruthi Prakashana.
Nearly 900 titles a year used to be released a decade ago, but today, around 5,000 titles are released every year. Many publication houses publish books only to sell them to libraries. Many people want to project themselves as writers. They start their own publication houses and sell their books to libraries.
“We often get calls from people settled abroad for publication of their parents’ works. They are ready to shell out money, but aren’t bothered about the quality,” says Sameer Joshi of Manohara Grantha Mala, Dharwad.
The e-book trend had affected the offline book sales in 2015-16. However, offline sale has increased in the past one year.
“The e-book sale has dipped from 21% to 11%, striking a positive note for book industry,” Paresh Shah, CEO, Sapna Book House, says.
Literature continues to be the most popular genre among customers. Books on popular science, environmental issues, personality development, recipes and time management are also in demand.
Demand for classics
“There has always been a demand for classics in literature. We get many retired employees seeking classics in Kannada and translation of classics from other languages,” says Joshi. Books on films and sports have fewer takers as media largely covers those fields.
The print form is making way for the digital form, while audiovisual trailers for books are slowly gaining momentum. Manohara Grantha Mala is digitising classics and titles that are out of print.
The Kannada book industry registers business worth Rs 25 crore a year.