Frontlist News | No more readers in libraries, publishers explore digital platforms to reach out
As we emerge from the lockdown, the economic hiatus due to the pandemic has begun to show its results. The printing and publication industry had to go into a forced shut down as the Covid-19 pandemic had people shunning from buying hard copies of newspapers, books, magazines and journals. All over the world, the industry is now reinventing itself through digital media, embracing the new normal. But while big publication houses managed to stay afloat, regional and smaller publications felt the punch in their belly.
Four prominent Punjabi publications, among the few surviving in the state at present, are published from the city, apart from several regional literary newsletters and journals. The task of publishing, postal delivery and managing the resources for continuation of the editions has become a challenge that most publishing houses, especially smaller ones, are finding hard to cope with. Despite service disruptions throughout the lockdown and rising cost of publication, a few have chosen to continue to publish relevant content.
“The pandemic has delayed quarterly publication of magazines that primarily focus on literary content. Many publications have struggled with managing resources, keeping their printing press working as staff shortage and the cost of keeping afloat are quite high. Despite the odds, readership might have fallen, but it has not been lost completely,” said Charanjit Sohal, a writer and editor-publisher of Wagah, a magazine.
The 150- page magazine was launched in 2015 and counted some of the most celebrated names from Punjabi literature as contributors. The magazine was not able to publish its March-April edition due to the lockdown. “The cost of labour, typesetting, composing and printing is already high. The cost of postal distribution charges is an added financial burden on the publisher, who is already facing loss of revenue due to a lack of advertisers and subscriptions,” says Sohal.
While most magazines being published from the city have resorted to postal deliveries rather than bookstall sales, receiving content from writers and contributors, too, have become difficult. “Most of the content from overseas contributors is received through PDF files but our local contributors, including readers, were hard to access as many were not digitally educated. Also, publishing during the lockdown was not difficult, but distribution and the task of reaching out to readers definitely were,” said Dr Vikram, a member of the editorial committee for Akhar magazine.
Ekam, another Punjabi quarterly, published from the city, by writer Artinder Sandhu, too, suffered readership loss during the pandemic. “Since, most of our readers are not digitally inclined, public libraries and literary societies offered a bridge between readers and magazines. Because to the pandemic, public libraries remained shut and no events were organised, which resulted in loss of printed copies. Earlier, I used to send at least 15-20 hard copies of Ekam to each public library and other volunteer platforms associated with us. But this time, I could send only five,” said Sandhu. But despite the odds, Sandhu managed to publish a joint edition in the month of July. “Our March edition got delayed, so we published an elaborate joint edition for the first half of 2020.”
One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic has been that literary magazines have now moved to the digital space. Wagah launched its official website that has all its previous editions and will regularly update the website with relevant content.
During the pandemic, we used to publish over 1,000 copies of our magazine. We have cut down the number by 200-300. This is a direct impact of the readers’ shift towards digital content. I feel that having e-copies of magazines or any printed publication is now a necessity to ease the financial burden and embrace the new normal. — Charanjit Sohal, editor-publisher, Wagah
Readership subscriptions have definitely been affected as most people refrained from buying copies or even could not access the books via libraries as they were closed during the lockdown. Also, to sustain printing, we have to arrange logistics such as postal delivery and courier and reduce the copies being printed to adjust ourselves to the new normal. — Artinder Sandhu, writer-editor, Ekam magazine
The pandemic has made publishers explore digital platforms for the marketing of their literary content. We have to adapt to the new technology to revive the publishing industry and lost readership. The National Digital Library of India has opened its portal for accessing their content to bridge the gap that has widened due to the pandemic. — Prabhjot Sandhu, district librarian
The entire working structure of the publishing industry has been hit hard. The sudden lockdown stalled new editions of books that remained stuck in godowns for months, without any means of delivery. With bookshops and post offices shut, number of orders received had declined, as a result of which printing was stopped