With schools and colleges moving online for lectures and reading material, private publishers based out of Maharashtra have been forced to explore options such as mobile phone applications, e-books and PDFs, among other ideas, to gain traction among students. Most of these publishers were earlier dependent on the sale of printed copies of their notes and study material.
After state universities announced multiple choice questions (MCQ) as the format for final-year examinations starting from September 25, publishers have stepped in to facilitate students and teachers. Last week, Sheth Publishers launched an app, ‘Sheth LMS’, providing model questions with packs ranging from Rs 5 to Rs 200 and from opting for individual papers to unlimited access. In July, e-copies of books were provided for free to teachers.
“We have been working for over 18 hours in the last two weeks to launch the app. The collection from e-books is not even 1 per cent of our expenses. Whereas sales of books this time is 30 per cent of what it was last year,” said director Deepak Sheth.
Owner of Manan Prakashan, Nitin Shah, said, “We have been giving compiled MCQs from our books as a separate PDF file to faculties, as a support system in setting question papers, since for many, their books are in college. We are in the process of developing an app by March next year, and will incorporate changes in the system ushered in accordance with National Education Policy.”
“For college students, we usually start printing books in April or May, but due to lockdown, we could start only after August. We anticipated diminishing sales and reduced our print run. We will have to explore other options to remain in the market. However, it won’t be possible to completely replace bulky books into e-books, as both require different formats,” Shah added.
Publishers catering to school students are having a harder time than those publishing for higher education. Jeevandeep Prakashan, which publishes for K-12 segment (from kindergarten to class 12) witnessed 20 per cent sales this year as compared to last year.
“We want the government to clarify what is going to happen to the current academic year,” said director Parin Furia, adding that copies to the tune of 11 million were printed before lockdown.
“Once school exams are over, purchasing starts. Printed in March. We didn’t foresee the extent of problems posed by Covid. Most books are now lying to be used for the next academic year. We will have one year to sell, as changes in the syllabus as proposed by NEP will be implemented from 2022,” Furia added.
The publication launched an e-learning app in May and its YouTube channel, launched in 2016, has received five times its original traction after lockdown, Furia said.
Book depots, this time, have also ensured that they cut down on orders. Naaz book depot on Mohammed Ali Road usually sells an average of 200 copies across courses but has sold only about 30-odd copies on an average. “Given the slowdown, I ordered only about 50 books, and have some copies still to sell,” said owner Asif Mohammed.
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