PAPERBACKS SUFFER, E-BOOKS IN TREND -THE COVID PHASE- By Mousumi Kalita Sachdeva
The pandemic of Covid 19 has a widespread impact on all the spheres around the globe. The public health crisis and the resulting economic fallout have hit the paper books as well. The sector dealing in production, stocking and retailing of books is suffering and is worried about the future impact of covid19 on the industry. The fall in the demand of paperbacks therefore has risen the trend of eBooks where voracious readers are seen to welcome e-books and kindle versions as the safe options to keep the virus away from reach.
The online platforms like Amazon and Flipkart have stopped delivering paperbacks and are making eBooks available for the readers. As the countries worldwide are mandating social distancing and order, plenty of businesses in the paper book sector are temporarily closed. Mitchell Kaplan, the founder of Books & Books, an independent chain in South Florida, said that the sales have fallen at the company’s stores and cafes, and author appearances have been cancelled. Some of the most anticipated titles of the spring have been delayed by weeks or months. Authors have chosen to delay the releases of their books as print has been regarded as an unsafe move due to the possibilities of the virus to home in the papers, courier materials and the hands of the packages. The publishers are not accepting the proposals for paperbacks and even moving the launch of books to next year. However, the publishers are welcoming to bring out eBooks if the authors prefer. Many new writers have chosen to publish their eBooks through the publishers or directly through Amazon writing desk.
Various new applications have come up to upload eBooks and thus kindle versions have taken over the paperbacks.
“Bookstores are shuttered, everyone right now is worried about their health and their livelihoods, there’s so much anxiety,” said writer Laila Lalami, whose new nonfiction book, “Conditional Citizens,” was scheduled to come out from Pantheon in April, but has been moved to the fall. “It makes sense to postpone it until there’s a bit more clarity, until we know what’s going to happen.”
There is indeed an intensifying uncertainty putting the authors in dilemma in course of the epidemic and the economic crisis. Some publishers worry that the situation could worsen in a few months. The warehouses and distribution centres have been shut down. Publishers are confronting reduced capacity at printing presses. Paper shortages is also a disconcerting issue, as more paper stock is getting consumed making cardboard for deliveries of essential products.
A growing number of independent booksellers have responded to the public health crisis by closing their stores and sending employees home. However, the big sharks of the industry, who can still manage to sell their books are seen to suffer less. Some are even offering free local shipping and have seen a rise in online sales.
The worst affected sector in this industry are independent stores. Though the associations in some countries are coming forward to take required measures to help the independent sellers.
The American Booksellers Association said it has been asking publishers to support independent stores by offering discounts, free shipping to customers and a removal of the cap on returns of unsold titles, among other measures. Other groups have been raising money to donate to the hard-hit independent stores. Many stores are unable to pay their rent or utilities bills as a result of lost sales.
Many in the industry worry that financial losses stemming from the outbreak will break the backbone of a significant number of stores and cause them to close permanently.
Most of the events are being cancelled. Major literary festivals and fairs around the world have been canceled. Public libraries have closed. Author tours, signings and bookstore appearances have been scrapped.
But the scenario of digitally printed books or ebooks has seen a considerable hike. In fact, several traditional publication houses are now adapting digital modes. The lockdown has accelerated a gradual shift, which began when national-level exams in India and various other countries have started moving online. With most of the national-level examinations moving to a digital platform, there is a huge trend among students, especially those preparing for competitive exams, to learn and practice online. This has led to a big shift in publishing houses as well, since many have started offering free coupons for online tests on purchasing books while others offer certain hours of e-learning content with physical books.
As per a survey by ed-tech company FairGaze, over 44.88 per cent people believe that online content will replace books. A further 46.32 per cent are of the opinion that teachers should use online resources to teach, rather than textbooks. This has prompted publication houses across the globe to adopt innovative methods to stay relevant during the COVID and post-COVID era.
As the severity of the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify, authors, publishers and booksellers are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout. Many fear that the worst is yet to come, including more store closures and potential disruptions to warehouse and distribution centres, as well as possible paper shortages and a decline in printing capacity. In the post Covid times, the paper book industry has to learn to survive along with the eBook segment as there has been a shift in the reader’s need and habit and it may continue to be the same in the near future. With eBooks in trend, many authors may become self-dependent in publishing their books rather than waiting with hopes for the publishing houses too act. The huge cost of printing books can be saved and the authors can best utilize their creativities digitally. The rise in the trend of eBooks may also bring new opportunities to the techno savvies in experimenting and creating various applications and platforms to publish eBooks. The readers too are in an advantageous state where they have to pay comparatively less than the paperbacks.
The eBooks may gain the market during the covid phase, yet the beauty of paperbacks would forever remain green to the bibliophiles and the libraries where paperbacks of course cannot be replaced by eBooks. As of now, the book keepers, authors and the publishers are waiting with fingers crossed to bid adieu to the virus and re establish their markets.