New Delhi: As life hurtles on the fast lane; technology makes giant leaps and wallets shrink in the new world, the publishing industry is opening up new, cost-effective and easier reading formats for literature buffs.
The traditional space-eating bookshelves and libraries at home and in public spaces will soon be replaced by audio-books, mobile telephone books, e-books and video clips of famous novels, which are available either at the click of a mouse or a dial tone away with the mobile telephony provider. Thanks to the new-age tech-savvy publishing wizkids.
The concept, already a rage across Europe, is making its maiden inroads into India, which boasts of one of the biggest publishing industry in terms of turnover (over 11 billion USD).
And Indian authors figure high on the list of the publishers of alternative books.
According to industry representatives, audio books, which are yet to retailed in Indian music and bookstores, can be downloaded from e-vendors like UK-based Waterstones, Amazon and HMV.
This week, UK-based Heavy Entertainment, one of the country's largest manufacturer and producer of audio-books, will launch an abridged audio edition of the Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children", a six-volume CD novel, spanning over eight hours, with voiceover by Lyndam Gregory, a veteran British Broadcasting Corporation's radio drama performer.
The book, priced at 15.99 Brtitish pounds, can be heard over any MP3 device.
In October, the company collaborated with the UK-based John Murray and Hachette Publishers, which has just set up its India arm, to produce Amitav Ghose's global best-seller, "Sea of Poppies" as an audio-novel. It is a four-CD book, spread over five hours, with Lyndam as the story-teller.
The audio novel, www. Seaofpoppies.com, which is available across stores in Europe, is priced at the 15.99 British pounds in shops and at 7.99 pounds on the Net.
Last month, Heavy Entertainment unveiled the audio format of Booker prize winning novel, "White Tiger", by Arvind Adiga across Europe. "The novel, which has five CDs has a voice over Kerry Shale, a veteran presenter, who enacts all the characters in the novel like Lyndam did for the last two Indian best-sellers," Davy Nougarede, director of Heavy Entertainment told this writer recently.
The producer of alternative books is in the country, as part of a contingent of young publishers to explore the opportunities of alternative publishing in the country as part of an Indo-British cultural exchange to promote creative entrepreneurs.
The industry for alternative books - both audio and e-books- said Davy, has grown by 800 per cent in Europe in the last six months since it was officially launched in UK 14 months ago.
"It was a trial. A collection of 100 classics written over the last 75 years and an e-book reading device was offered to readers at 199 British pounds. An e-book reading device is a B-format paperback size computer where the screen serves as a page, operating through touch. One can store at least 2,000 books on the device instead of having four to five books in your bag. The device, developed by Sony, is known as Kindle," Davy explained.
The market for audio books, however, is more brisk. It is growing at a rate of 20 per cent every month. "That is because of the comfort factor. Many people find it difficult to read and easy to hear their stories being read out by someone else. The first lot of audio books were published in UK and US 20 years ago," Davy said.
The best-selling audio novel in the West now is "Barack Obama: Dream From My Father" which sold 25,000 copies since it was launched four months ago.
The alternative book formats are price-wise because they do not involve printing costs and incur minimal distribution costs.
Davy, who released 50-80 audio novel titles in his country every year, now produces around 350 titles annually. In India, Davy works with Shoda Tales, an audio publisher based in Chennai, to manufacture audio books of short stories and poetry for students of English language across the country. The publisher is currently in talks with several Indian authors to compile an audio-anthology of short stories that suits the format.
Peter Collingridge, the young founder of Apt Studio, another British firm that specialises in innovative publishing formats, is ready with his first three mobile books- The Barack Obama biography, a novel, "The Death of Bunny Murro" by rockstar Nick Cave and "Homicide" by David Simon, which was made into a popular tele-serial in Britain. The mobile version of the Obama biography, in collaboration with Apple, will hit the telephony market in May.
"I would love to transcribe Chetan Bhagat's 'Five Point Someone' into a mobile telephone novel. The book has such a vast scope and is so inspiring," Collingridge said. India, with six million mobile phone subscribers, is a challenging market.
As for reading or hearing your favourite book on your cell phone while on the way to work or in the crowded metro rail, just dial your nearest service provider for the archive link, Collingridge said.
--Madhusree Chatterjee and Jay Akbar