Bangalore, November 22, 2017: Kannada booksellers in the city have seen a fall in revenue by 50 per cent in the last few years.
Lakshmikant, owner of Total Kannada (a bookstore which sells only Kannada items), said, “The book sales have reduced by 50 per cent. Rest of the sales happen in online retail websites like Flipkart and Amazon. In fact, t-shirts and key rings with Kannada captions sell more. But I suspect this generation is going to be the last to buy Kannada books.” He attributed the change in scenario to the fact that young people don’t have reading habits and Kannada is not taught properly in schools.
He further explained how the population which reads Kannada literature is already a small fraction, “There are 6 crore people in Karnataka, out of which 4.5 crore are Kannadigas and out of that, 2.5 crore are literate. Assuming 10 per cent of those 2.5 crore people have a reading habit and out of that, only another 10 per cent actually have the time to read, that gives us 2.5 lakh people who actually buy books.” He added his business has been running in loss and he has survived only by taking personal loans from friends as even banks have refused to sanction loans to his business.
Munniraju, salesperson at Aakruti Books (a Kannada publishing house and bookstore), said, “The business has reduced by 50 per cent. People don’t read Kannada literature anymore. There have been major reductions in the last three years. The publishing business is still doing okay. Writers still write but nobody reads. Also, the Kuvempu and Bhyrappa style writing has disappeared now.” He said while bookstores have been closing down across the country, the ones which sell regional literature are the worst affected.
Mahindra, salesperson at Blossom Book House, said, “The demand for Kannada literature has been the lowest this year in our store.” He exclaimed, ”What are Kannadigas doing in their leisure time?” The decline in sales is not just because of a cultural shift but also due to the advent of e-commerce websites. A Raghuveer, manager at Sahityaloka Book House, mentioned how online sales have been the major contributing factor for reduced business. He said the store cannot compete with the discounts offered by the e-commerce websites.
The customer base has also reduced. Vinanthi Gowda, an avid Kannada reader, said “In my family, I am the only person who can fluently read and write Kannada. My kids prefer conversing in English and don’t have an interest in learning their native language.” She mentioned her visits to the bookshop have become less frequent as the internet has changed her buying habits. She prefers ordering books from the comfort of her home.
However, even as the demand has declined for printed copies, e-books are on a surge. Kiran M, founder of Ruthumana, an online library of Kannada books, said, “There was no presence of Kannada literature in website form when we started 1.5 years back. Initially, the clicks were 1000 per day. Now it has increased to 14,000 to 15,000 per day. Personally, I believe that there is demand for online. Reach to the readers and do your marketing properly.(sic)”
“Readership levels have declined worldwide. Earlier, you were completely dependent on books for entertainment. Now you have Amazon and Netflix. Reading demands your efforts compared to visual stuff, “ he added.