ET: In the world of ebooks and audiobooks, how has Baker and Taylor transformed itself?
AK: For over a decade, we have embraced the dynamic landscape of ebooks and audiobooks. Our transformation has been fuelled by a genuine passion to make knowledge more accessible in an increasingly digital age.
We recognised that the world of libraries and literature was evolving, and so did the preferences of the library community. To meet these changes, we’ve woven technology into the very fabric of our approach. Our focus has been creating an environment where library-goers can effortlessly dive into the expansive world of ebooks and audiobooks. We believe in the power of technology not just as a tool but as a bridge connecting people to the vast treasure troves of educational resources and diverse narratives.
Amid evolving customer preferences, we are dedicated to developing software and technology solutions that support librarians in their digital transformation journeys across the globe. We will continue to help our global library partners inspire and serve their communities through literacy and learning.
ET: What kind of impact has digital reading had on local libraries and the library business?
AK: The advent of digital reading has been a game changer for local libraries and the broader library business landscape. It is a literary revamp that brings challenges and opportunities.
Firstly, digital reading has significantly expanded the reach and accessibility of libraries. Patrons no longer face constraints related to physical location or operating hours. The library is now in their hands, accessible anytime, anywhere. This shift has democratised access to knowledge, empowering individuals who might have faced barriers in traditional library settings.
This digital revolution has prompted libraries to evolve and adapt. There’s a growing need for libraries not just to house books but curate and provide access to various digital content. It’s about becoming multimedia hubs catering to varied reading preferences — e-books, audiobooks or other digital formats.
This shift to digital reading has necessitated reimagining services for the library business. Libraries are embracing technology to enhance user experiences, offering interactive platforms, virtual book clubs and personalised recommendations. This transformation is not just about surviving in the digital age but thriving and remaining relevant to the communities they serve.
ET: The books and publishing business has a lot of smaller players, including illustrators, retailers and distributors. While many of these players are going digital, especially those of this generation, has the transformation been easy on older players?
AK: The digital shift in the books and publishing industry has ushered in a wave of change, impacting players of all sizes.
For the younger generation of illustrators, retailers and distributors, the transition to digital has often been a natural progression. Growing up in a digital era, they’ve enthusiastically embraced new tools, platforms and formats. This tech-savvy cohort has adapted swiftly and pioneered innovative approaches to storytelling, retail and distribution in the digital realm.
On the other hand, for those who have been integral to the traditional book ecosystem, embracing digital might require a shift in mindset and a learning curve, which may pose a few challenges. But this is where the rich experience and vast industry expertise of some of the largest and oldest players, like Baker & Taylor, make a difference.
We are aware that the transformation in the book and publishing business is a collective effort. Hence, we remain committed to fostering an environment where emerging talent and seasoned veterans can coexist and thrive side by side.
ET: Tell us about the e-book market size in India and how it has evolved over the years.
AK: A strong tradition of storytelling and printed literature has always influenced reading habits in India. For many, a physical library was a lot more than reading books — it was about respect for others (silence), being organised (keeping books back on the shelves), cleanliness (not having food or drinks), and so on. However, the increasing usage of smart devices and easy access to the internet has led to the rise of digital content and e-books in India, ushering in a new chapter in the world of reading.
Today, the traditional notion of libraries has transformed. India’s libraries have evolved into dynamic community hubs, serving as spaces connecting, cultivating, and transforming communities. This, in turn, has led to an e-book revolution in the country, with the Indian ebook market projected to reach a revenue of $236.4 million in 2024. It is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 6.84% from 2023 to 2027, reaching an estimated $279.8 million by 2027, with 133.3 million readers.
ET: What are your expectations from India’s bookstore business for the next five years? Are they evolving at the pace required?
AK: Running a global capability center (GCC) in India has allowed us to witness the evolution of the books and the publishing industry firsthand. And, from what we’ve seen so far, it’s safe to say that the country’s bookstore business is poised for growth, with the revenue in the books market in India projected to reach $5.14bn in 2024, growing at an annual CAGR (2024-2028) of 3.38%, resulting in a projected market volume of $5.87bn by 2028.
The proliferation of technology has led to a surge in digital content and ebooks, which, in turn, has made it imperative for traditional bookstores to embrace digital transformation. Today, some of the leading players in India’s bookstore landscape are leveraging technology and tech-driven solutions to cater to the diverse needs of their customers. With digital solutions, Indian bookstore businesses are reinventing their approach to stay relevant and competitive.