Book-buying in Kolkata
Kolkata has always loved to flaunt a sense of ownership when it comes to anything to do with books. Intellectual exchanges over umpteen cups of tea and brainstorming over who should or shouldn’t have written which line can make for many stimulating conversations. But, when it comes to actually buying English language books, publishers claim that Kolkata is lagging far behind the other metros.
Kolkata loves books, talks books, but doesn’t buy enough.
Says Saugata Mukherjee, publisher, Pan Macmillan: “Kolkata, or rather the east, would account for barely 7 to 10% of the national sale of English language books. That’s quite a dismal figure but one has to accept that Kolkata is the smallest market for us. It’s the smallest market by a long margin.
Kartika V K, chief editor of Harper Collins, agrees. “In terms of the market for leisure reading in English, the east doesn’t fare as well as what Delhi or Mumbai does. In fact, Pune is a faster growing market in terms of buying English language books.
Bengali literature sells well here. But when it comes to leisure reading where books are priced above Rs 400, people think twice before buying. In contrast, the easy availability of Bengali literature at much cheaper prices makes Kolkata a big patron in that sector,” Kartika says.Most urban Indians living in Delhi and Mumbai might speak in Marathi and Hindi but when it comes to reading, the language is by and large English. In contrast, Kolkata’s Bengali population takes a lot of pride in their language.
That reflects in their buying choices also. When they spend on buying books, they will split the budget between buying Bengali and English fare.”
“Buying anything is a matter of disposable income,” says Kolkata-based author Rimi B Chatterjee. “Since people earn less here, it reflects how much they can buy. Besides, Kolkata is also used to buying Bengali literature which comes quite cheap. English books, in order to maintain a certain standard, is also quite costly. Borrowing books and bookstore reading are preferred low-cost options in this city.