Publishers acquire a Hindi accent

Publishers acquire a Hindi accent

New Delhi: About one-third of Indian book readers read in Hindi and not English. Yet, English authors are the ones that get more money and opportunities to be published than Hindi ones. So far, small, local and scattered publishers have been the ones publishing Hindi books. They have less muscle and reach than the bigger players. Hindi books are generally priced cheaper than books in English. But now, with bigger players stepping in the world of Hindi publishing, things look set for a change.

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23c49882-9088-11dd-837a-000b5dabf613.flvRecently, Harper Collins India launched March, Ma, aur Sakura, its first original commissioned Hindi literary work by Geetanjali Shree. It is the second mainstream international publisher to get serious about the national language after Penguin that launched its Hindi and vernacular books operation in 2005.

PM Sukumar, Harper Collins’ CEO in India says that the volume of Hindi books is half the volume of English books. In terms of value, it is between 30-40% of the value of Hindi books. He is confident of a worthwhile business opportunity here. “We see a substantial market," he says.

He agrees that there are challenges though. Finding Hindi writers is one. English writing pays better, and gives access to a global platform. It is the key publishing language in India as well.

Penguin has done 130 vernacular books since 2005. Of these, 76 have been in Hindi. The number seems small when one considers that it brings out an average of 200 new titles every year. However, Penguin says that it is stepping up its effort.

Harper Collins had begun its tryst with Hindi with a translation earlier in May for the Chronicles of Narnia and intends to bring out eight other Hindi titles this year. It has set an aim of 15 for next year and around 25-30 annually after that.

English titles comprise almost 40% of India’s annual domestic publishing volumes and stand at about 50% in terms of value. As a result, many budding writers have taken to English as their language of choice. But author Geetanjali Shree does say that there are opportunities for those wishing to write in Hindi. She says that there are plenty of opportunities for people writing in Hindi. She gives her own example where she has access to publishers like Rajkamal Prakashan, Ratna Sagar and Pustak Mahal for publishing her works.

Geetanjali however agrees that English does have better resources and pays better. But she is hopeful that with publishers like Harper Collins and Penguin getting into Hindi, these opportunities will only increase. “This is a good start," says the author.