What will be the fate of Goa’s bookstores?
Bookshops in the country, in this day and age, are like an endangered species, fast disappearing. In Goa, the situation is even tighter, with a small market, and for those who focus on promoting local writers, it can be touch and go
It enriches one’s language and gives you a perspective of another culture. It is generally a profitable experience for the reader but is it so for the retailer of the book? How are the bookstores in Goa faring? Are they under pressure to shut operations? How are outlets that focus on promoting local talent faring?
It is a tough business, this one. Keeping a track of changing tastes in a market that is small and not really capable of sustaining a business solely targeted at the native audience. Leonard Fernandes’s CinnamonTeal Publishing, one of India’s largest self-publishing houses that is based in Goa is frank when he says, “We publish very few Goan authors. Our business model is very different. It all depends on the author as to what their budget is. They pay us to print for them. There have been exceptions of course. We have had the pleasure of printing the translations of Damodar Mauzo’s works for the Goan and the Indian markets. We have published around 10-11 books and published many more in the self-publishing route.” Since the market is very small and those who read Goan authors even more focussed, it is important to organise events to generate a buzz. Leonard says, “It is very important to have an event because it will guarantee sales. So at the event, we keep stock of the book being launched and push it aggressively. A book reading is a very good occasion when copies are sold. We have to generate sales in the first three months of the launch after which it just peters out. If there is an occasion that guarantees a collection of people in large numbers, we have to consider it as an opportunity to sell our books.” Book readings, he says, take place in bookstores in Panjim and Margao but the effort put in is way too much and the returns generally do not justify it. Another issue is the price of the books. Goan consumers, he feels, are not prepared to pay more than Rs 350, which gives everyone the scale of the problem faced by publishers. The Goa market, he believes, is not open to poetry but very interested in history, memoirs and books that focus on the environment. Fiction has a very small market in the state. The fact there are not many bookshops does not help matters on the ground. The fact that most of the bookshops are based on the coastline in the tourist belt does not make life easy. Sales to libraries certainly help because they purchase books in decent numbers. This, he says, usually generates some sales in other outlets with some readers deciding to keep a personal copy at home. The established rule in Goa is that printers usually have a print run of 500 copies. Leonard however agrees that more books are coming out of Goa and he hopes that books focusing on children will hit the stands. Frederick Noronha of Goa 1556 is candid when he says that a lack of awareness (about new books), lack of a reading movement, few libraries in the state, and the lack of a local book distribution network are placing limits on growth. There can be potential if these issues are addressed. He is of the opinion that bodies like the Directorate of Art and Culture and Central Library can help take Goa-authored books to wider audiences nationwide. There is hardly any Goa participation in book fairs because publishing is still a small or cottage industry here. When asked if Goans buy books in general, he smiles and says that it is not in comparable proportions to say Malayalees or even Bengalis. “We do not have the benefit of a decades old readers’ movement, nor sufficient libraries.” When asked if Goans buy books for their children, he says, “My experience is they will read if they find good books. Children can be easily built into readers. But the entire ecosystem of children’s books authors, children’s books publishers, libraries, and schools/teachers who recognise the importance of reading needs to be built first. There are no short-cuts here.” With regard to genres popular in Goa, he says its books in English on History in addition to creative writing in multiple languages. He confirms that poetry does not have a market though many find it enticing to express themselves in this genre. He points out that books published in English (a lot of non-fiction) and Konkani-Marathi (much of creative writing) tend to different readers. He however says with regard to children’s books that there are quite a few in Konkani, especially in Devanagri because of state support.
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