A textbook problem: Schools shut, publishers count losses – education


For the past six decades, Rajiv Gupta’s circle of relatives has been selling school and college textbooks from their shop in Delhi’s Nai Sarak, probably the most country’s biggest textbook markets. The shop, which saw a never-ending stream of students before the onset of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, hardly receives any customers nowadays.

“Nowadays, only some parents come to shop for books for their children. My sales have plummeted by 70% this year,” says Gupta.

The continued closure of schools and other educational institutions because of the Coronavirus pandemic has dealt a blow to the textbook industry, with booksellers and publishers experiencing an unprecedented decline in their trade after decades of robust growth.

According to the India Book Market Outline by Nielsen released in 2015, there were approximately 21,000 book retailers and approximately 9,000 publishers in India, out of which 8,107 published books for schools, colleges and higher educational institutions. Educational books formed approximately 70% of the book market in India — with the school and college books market valued at ₹18,600 crore and ₹5,600 crore respectively in 2013–14. According to the outline, the K-12 books market used to be likely to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 19.6%, from ₹22,170 crore in 2014-15 to ₹54,190 crore by 2019-20.

But this differently exciting story of textbook publishing in India has taken a grim turn with sales of many well-known publishers dropping as much as 50% in comparison to final year.

“Publishers are sitting on massive unsold stocks. Since the Coronavirus lockdown happened in March, the last-mile sales of books suffered. Most publishers had dispatched the books to distributors or bookshops but numerous stocks are still mendacity unsold with them. Almost 30-40% stocks may come back as returns,” said Monica Malhotra Kandhari, vice president, Federation of Indian Publishers and managing director, MBD Group, one of India’s oldest and largest publishing companies.

“Our sales have plummeted 50% this academic session,” says Ashwani Goyal, managing director, Goyal Publishers, probably the most country’s largest publishers of language learning books.

Many in the industry say that probably the most major reasons for the fall in the textbook sales could also be the truth that numerous children of migrant workers in budget schools have gone back to their villages, and are unable to continue their education online. The point is endorsed by the owners of the budget schools.

“Our schools had 400 children, most of them belonging to low-income migrant families, and we have missing touch with 50% of them. We have been ready to supply online education to only approximately 30 children. Our fee is only Rs 700 for Class 8 and Rs 400 for nursery, still only 21 out of 400 children paid fees final month. Their families are struggling for survival; education and books do not appear to be their precedence, ” says DP Sharma, who runs Ved Pal Memorial School in Hastal in Uttam Nagar, west Delhi, which has 150 budget schools, most of which came up up to now two decades; most complain of thousands of “lacking” students.

Bharat Arora, general secretary, Action Committee of Unaided Recognized Private Schools, an organization of private schools in Delhi, says that this year many private schools also really useful digital books.

“Numerous private schools put the list of books on websites really useful and digital books in case the children were unable to shop for physical copies. But even so, schools were also sending chapters of more than a few books online in April . There has never been such online consumption of education satisfied before, ” Arora says.

Ashwani Goyal said what has also affected sales is online piracy “ I am surprised by the number of unlawful PDFs of our printed books to be had online,” says Goyal, who has approximately 800 titles in circulation, catering to school and college students. Prior to now few months, he has digitized most of his titles and made them to be had on e-reading platforms such as Bru.

Like many other publishers, Goyal feels that recycling of old books throughout the lockdown in April and Might also affected sales. Aparajitha Gautam, president, Delhi Parents Organization, says that between March and May, the organization aggressively promoted the exchange of old books across the city through thousands of parents’ WhatsApp groups. “This helped children procure books when all bookshops were closed and even-e-commerce companies were not delivering books. Eventually, numerous parents did not buy new books at all, and lots of bought only some make a selection books except for notebooks,” she says.

Ish Kapur, who runs Dhanpat Rai Publications, says sales of books have been affected in a different way in different parts of the country. “ Textbooks sales are especially dismal in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu , which are severely hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. The sales of books for primary classes have been especially naughty,” says Kapur, whose journal house is known for its mathematics books by RD Sharma. “Our sales are down by 25%; we have never seen this sort of downturn in trade in our 70-year-old history. The sales of even our best -selling titles have been affected,” adds Kapur.

The textbook industry follows a sales and marketing strategy that is totally different from that of business publishers because it is aligned with the school academic year.

Yearly, in October, representatives and salespersons of more than a few publishing companies start visiting schools across the country for assembly principals and teachers, to make presentations on their books.

“We touched base with 70,000 schools final year. On the other hand, we don’t seem to be certain whether we will undertake the same exercise this year as the schools are still closed. The production of books starts in August-September every year; but this year as the publishers are sitting with stocks, it sort of feels only 10-20% production may happen,” says Kandhari.

Talking of the way forward for print textbooks in the post-Covid world, she says textbook publishers should reinvent themselves. “Hybrid mannequin of education with a mix of online and in-person classes is going to be the new normal. The textbooks will co-exist with digital learning satisfied,” says Kandhari.

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