‘The dark cloud of recession looms over the US and as the cliché goes, whenever Uncle Sam sneezes, the world catches a cold. However, Sir Alexander James Mirrlees- economist and winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Economics, sees a silver lining. “Entrepreneurship is a way out in these tough times. It is also a good time to invest because valuations are lower,” he says. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of his book and look into the Indian publishing industry for a change. According to a 2007 report by the US commercial Service it is “expected to grow at a 13 per cent cumulative annual growth rate over the next five years.”

The Digital Divide

“Being a publishing entrepreneur in times of recession means keeping the expenses minimum. Digital technology allows just that,” says Lucy Luck, founder of the Lucy Luck Associates. Much has changed since the early days of publishing. Now desktop publishing is the norm. Technology not only allows one to function on a shoe-string budget, it also ushers a wide range of possibilities.

Print on Demand

One of the newest offshoots of digitech is print on demand (POD). It is a business process whereby new copies of a book are not printed until an order has been received. Nii Parkes, senior editor and manager of Flipped Eye Publishing, explains, “Earlier it wasn’t economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology. But POD has opened a range of new book creation and publishing opportunities for small publishers like us.” The initial investment is less when compared with publishing that use print runs. It fuels a new category of companies, whose services generally include printing and shipping a book each time one is ordered, handling royalties and getting listings in online bookstores. Along with international names like LuLu and Blurb, Indian players like Cinnamon Teal are making their foray into the POD realm. “With improvements in the quality of printing in India, POD can become big,” Nii predicts

Audio Books

The proliferation of multimedia has morphed our reading habits. Audiobooks were developed to attract the gen-next virtually attached to their ipods. They are often a dramatised and abridged version of a book. Davy Nougarede whose company Heavy Entertainment specialises in publishing audio-books says, “Audio-book has seen a 12 per cent increase over 2006 in the US. Since literacy is not a barrier, this format has a good market in India.” As per a recent survey conducted by Point Topic, in the next five years, India will achieve a growth rate of 489 per cent in broadband services. Downloads are going to be preferred choice of distribution and with the downloadable format, manufacturing costs of audio-books will go down.

Books on the go!

Our mobile phones are turning into electronic Swiss army knives. With the technology convergence, ipods and mobile phones will increasingly serve as a platform for e-books. Peter Collingridge, MD of Apt Studio Ltd., that publish e-books says, “Japan is our biggest market where four out of 10 books are published along with their e-book versions.”

According to Informa Telecoms and Media, an estimated half a billion Indians will have a mobile subscription by the end of September 2010. With such exponential growth Peter is looking to tie up with mobile phone manufacturers in India to provide e-books with the handsets. He suggests others do the same.