Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Textbooks top best-selling list
J. Malarvizhi

Textbook requirement is higher, because it is compulsory material: Scholastic India

CHENNAI: The boy wizard from England was no competition at all. Material related to school syllabi and textbooks are the bestsellers in children's publishing in the city.

Publishers are also seeing a slow rise in interest in `Indian' themes, especially mythology and folk tales. The phenomenon of Harry Potter was more hype than reason to celebrate, they agree.

"With the jump in the number of media organisations, children's publishing might be receiving a lot of attention," said Viswanathan of Karadi Tales, however, "that does not necessarily translate into number of books sold."

When publishers such as Scholastic India were asked what was popular among children's books, they revealed that textbooks and activity books were the highest selling titles. "Textbook requirement is much higher, mainly because it is compulsory material," said Tahsin Chacko, Branch Manager, Tamil Nadu, "Activity books including colouring books and puzzle books with material that is subject oriented also move fast."

Karadi Tales is among the few standalone children's publishers in the market, and has seen some titles cross the 10,000 mark for number of copies sold.

"We have been growing tremendously — we saw a 100 per cent growth last year," said Mr. Viswanathan, "But, the market is still small and very focussed on curricular material. Even if it's growing at, say, 25 per cent annually, it is starting from a very minuscule base."

In this prominently English speaking market, the need is to reach people in small towns who want to read good books, or by offering books at affordable prices, said Pavithra Srinivasan, children's storywriter and editor at Katha. About five years old in children's publishing, Katha is trying to find a balance between quality material and costs, she said.

Quality books

Some of the news is good. Interest in reading is definitely rising, agreed several representatives of publishing companies. Parents are slowly beginning to spend on quality books, several worried that the institution of grandma or parents telling stories to children was being lost.

Interest in Indian writing

There is also an upswing of interest in Indian writing. Schools have begun to request such titles, said Ms. Chacko. Katha too sees an interest in folk tales and mythology to be on the rise. "Hanuman, with the release of the animated film, has become a big phenomenon," said Ms. Srinivasan.

Representatives of a leading bookstore in the city said Ruskin Bond and R.K. Narayan are among the best-selling titles in the children's section, with the Panchatantra stories following close.

Enid Blyton and the latest fantasy bestsellers Christopher Paolini's Eragon and Eldest are the principal competition.


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