Frontlist | An insight of publishing industry with Karan Gupta

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“There was a time when cooking had its own entire segment of books and now you won’t see a single cookbook out there unless it is very specific with the TV program or something” says Karan Gupta of Unicorn Digital Publishing.

Tell us something about the type of work you do?

In Unicorn Digital Publishing LLP, we have created our e-book system for Indian publishers. We are trying to build an entirely Indian-tech company where publishers can cater to B2B & B2C. To the readers, we are providing the best reading experience just like Kindle.

We are in the digital era, how do you think that digitalization helps publishers?

A lot of things have changed in Covid-19 lockdown as we are utilizing the internet for things that we never thought of. As the schools closed down, we never thought teachers have to give the lectures online. Some classes might have a possibility but as far as India is concerned, it is happening for the last 10 months.

As publishers provide support for such things, it has created a new industry in the form of Edu-tech. Publishers are responding at their own speed which will upset some of the old relations and businesses too. 

Do you think this is the way forward?

Yes, it should be.

We should have accepted technology way before it was forced upon us. Now as the teachers are adapting it, they are finding it much better than the older system. So we might see some more digital sides of education as the New Education Policy is also coming. As far as individual B2C or pleasure & leisure reading is concerned, we already had people using e-books but that was a very small segment of the market.

But I feel that presence is necessary as nowadays entertainment in different forms is being consumed online. If you are a provider of books you should be present in that space as well. An absence in that place is an indicator that something is going wrong.

How do you see books evolving in the coming future?

There are multiple aspects to this evolution. My first point would be what segments we are operating in. In the case of books, some segments are completely being eroded. The most common example is cookbooks. There was a time when cooking had its own entire segment of books and now you won’t see a single cookbook out there unless it is very specific with the TV program or something.

As IT and Law books where updates are coming regularly, a lot of publishers have already moved to the internet and their product has evolved as a digital depositary. I don’t think they are classifying them as books now. The structure they have adapted is more like a single reference. They are building their own libraries. 

Another evolution we have seen is in printed books from what I’ve read online. Books have been reduced from the normal printed form which we see to shrink, wrapped and punch sheets of paper. In abroad also, students don’t receive books anymore. They have printed sheets that they can insert into their files. And this is supposed to be a book. Even in the physical form, we are seeing changes in it. Perhaps this is moving towards POD ( Print on Demand Approach) because the printing of sheets is still possible as compared to an entire book. So tomorrow, if they want to replace a particular segment in a printed book, it is easier to do that in a proper hard-bound book.

I do see these evolutions themselves on all aspects on the product side, content side & perhaps on the life cycle of the book.

Have you seen any change pre & during COVID in the reading pattern like the type of books, content people are liking to read?

What I’ve heard, some segments have a very positive shift because people are ordering more books for reading at their homes. In some sectors, it has gone completely down. Maybe because it is an impulsive purchase if it were a pre-decided purchase then it might have seen a positive shift. But in an impulsive purchase, as far as I know, it goes down.

What I can understand here is the shifting of that segment is due to consuming other modes of entertainment online. We have to compete with audio and video for the same time-slots and it has become a little difficult for us.

Books will remain relevant, especially for the younger ones. We won’t want our children to shift entirely online when they are 5-10 years old. There will be a lot of innovations for targeting that age group.

How will that happen? I think some other publishers who are operating in that space would be in a better position to tell you that.

Delhi Book Fair happened virtually this year, what do you want to say about it?

It was something new with a great experience. We were quite happy to be a part of it. Not from the sales perspective but also from the marketing one. This is something which should happen more frequently. This allows us to create buzz and interaction. For the industry, a virtual book fair is a better way to create a spontaneous and viral response for the general public. I also had a webinar in it and it was a good experience as we got a good response through it.

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