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A mighty charm of multimedia

Meera Srinivasan and J. Malarvizhi

``Tamil publishers' products are of international quality, at one-third of the price of English books''

GROWING VARIETY: A stall crammed with books at the book fair, now on at St. George's Anglo-Indian School at Kilpauk. Book sale and publishing industry are both looking up, book-sellers say. — Photo: K. Pichumani

CHENNAI : Book sale in Chennai is on a roll. Self-improvement books and children's publications are the current favourites among book-lovers.

If you are looking for proof, visit the 30th annual book fair organised by the Book Sellers and Publishers of South India (BAPASI), the single biggest outlet for selling books in the city.

The fair, now on at St. George's School in Kilpauk, features over one crore books. The translations of self-help author Kopmeyer's books have seen 36 editions and sell more than 3000 copies a year, says Gandhi Kannadasan, president, BAPASI, who runs Kannadasan Pathippagam. Upto 40,000 copies of the translation of Napolean Hill's `Think and Grow Rich' have been sold in the past eight years.

Last year, Kizhakku Pathippagam's Tamil book `Alla Alla Panam I' sold 1,500 copies and this year they expect this book along with its second part to sell at least 2,000 copies.

Tirukkural and Bharathiar's poetry are perennial favourites, say stall-owners at the fair.

Writer Kalki remains a bestseller with over 15,000 copies of his historical novels, brought out by about 10 publishers, selling annually. Trivia and general knowledge books sold well during the reign of `Kaun Banega Crorepati' and `Kodeeswaran.'

Vibrant market for publishing industry

The retail boom and technically savvy publishers are creating a vibrant market for books in Tamil Nadu. In the last one year, retailers have expanded operations. "That can only mean that book selling is a profitable enterprise," points out Mr. Gandhi Kannadasan.

New technology has ensured that publishing is no longer a time-consuming or expensive process. "Tamil publishers, who used to be technically shy, are now capable of producing books of international quality at one-third the price of English books," he adds.

"We can see people returning to books in the last decade, maybe because the visual medium has lost its fascination. A review or mention in a newspaper or on TV channel, though, will encourage people to seek out a title," says R.S. Shanmugam, secretary, BAPASI.

Children's publishing

Parents are still to see the value of children's publishing in Tamil, say publishers. The non-resident Tamilian population remains the most lucrative market for such books. Reading levels among children are quite encouraging in general, though, say publishers.

The managing director of the Vikatan group, B. Srinivasan, finds that children are quite eager to read in their mother tongue.

It is to tap this segment that the group has taken up the mammoth task of publishing what Mr. Srinivasan terms "Tamiliteration" of the Britannica encyclopaedia series. The publication has three volumes with 25,000 entries, of which about 2,500 would pertain to the Indian and Tamil contexts.

"The response has been encouraging. We plan to launch the series in April, but we are already receiving pre-launch orders at the book fair," he says.

V. Badrinarayanan of Children's Book Trust vouches for the growing demand for Indian folk tales among children. While the variety of books available for children is growing steadily, Tenali Raman, Akbar and Birbal continue to have fans, observes a spokesperson of New Century Book House.

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