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Magazines lose shine

DIPPING INTEREST General interest print magazines are mostly losing readership, while business and niche magazines are growing and attracting international labels

The latest Indian Readership Survey for the second quarter of 2011 shows that magazine readership continues to follow the decline trend of the past two years, specifically general interest magazines. Business and niche magazines, however, are showing growth.
Among business magazines, two relatively new publications -the Indian editions of Forbes and Fortune -have added fresh excitement. They are targeting the top end of the English magazine readership.

IRS 2011 Q2 shows that of the top 10 magazines, India Today is the only English language magazine to feature and despite the trend of general interest magazines declining in readership, it has gained readership over Q1.

Business Today is the only business magazine to feature in the top 10 English language magazines list. The highest read business magazine in India, it did lose some readership in Q1 2011, but made up some of the loss in Q2.

Business Outlook is the only business magazine to have shown steady readership growth over the last five quarters. “We have been looking at the numbers -ad revenues and circulation -and there is clear growth even as others have shown a decline,“ said Maheshwar Peri, publisher, Outlook.

According to IRS, 2010 saw an overall growth in readership of business magazines over 2009, with Business Today, Outlook Business, Business World and Outlook Money gaining in readership and Business India remaining at the same level.

“There is a loss of interest in general interest magazines. There is a lot of pressure on revenues. Even as the overall advertising spends in print are growing at a healthy 20-25%, spends on magazines are going down,“ Ramaswamy Ranganathan, business group head, Mediacom, said.

“Magazine consumption is changing -a drop is occurring among the male readers. Also, demographically, there is a drop in the peripheral readers,“ said Arabinda Ghosh, executive VP, ZenithOptimedia India, a media agency.

According to the FICCI-KPMG media and entertainment industry report of 2011, the magazine market in India has more than 68 genres across 19 categories.
The magazine industry’s declining growth contribution to the print media industry, say magazine sources, is due to a lack of adequate measurement mechanisms to measure reach, popularity and return on investment.

“In general, magazine readership is on a decline but that is more limited to the general interest magazines. The business magazine category is seeing fresh excitement with the entry of new premium players and there is a revival to some extent,“ said Gurmeet Singh, CEO, Forbes India.

“Even though the space in the business genre is heavily crowded, the business magazines are well-positioned. The new international players who have entered the business genre are positioned differently with their pricing. As such, you can never replace the pure play Indian business magazines that, despite their pricing, are churning out better content,“ said Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today. “At Rs 100, they are reaching out to a very niche audience.“

Business magazines have already increased their cover prices. Business Today and Outlook Business have seen a price hike of Rs 5.

More international magazines are launching in India, especially in the niche and special interest magazine category.
Worldwide Media launched Lonely Planet in the first half in 2010 and BBC Knowledge and Home Trends in the second half. Network 18 launched ForbesLife and Conde Nast Traveler.

All these magazines are priced at Rs 100-250. “Some of them have shown good growth albeit from small numbers,“ the PricewaterhouseCoopers media and entertainment 2011 report noted.

Niche magazines have made their presence felt in India and will continue to grow, PwC predicts. While segments such as travel, auto, lifestyle and education are already established, it expects new segments to emerge and grow this space. In 2010, a few niche magazines such as Autocar, India Today Travel Plus and Outlook Traveler recorded very healthy growth.

Of the total print industry, magazines contribute only around 5-6% in revenues. Advertising currently comprises around 70% of magazine revenues. “Revenues are not down but the sources are undergoing a change as there is more contribution from non-subscription-based areas. While advertising, sales and subscription may contribute a large portion together, events, innovations and digital presence are contributing more,“ said Ashish Pherwani, associate director, Ernst & Young. Whether this will be enough to sustain magazines, going forward, is unclear. Ranganathan said: “With the cost levels going up, consolidation is the only way forward for the magazine industry.”

Source: Hindustan Times, 3rd Oct’11 I Rachit Vats I MUMBAI

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A whole new story!

The way we read has changed… Now you can carry hundreds of books around without having to cart a load.

Norbert Rego reports – TIMES NEWS NETWORK

TECHNOCRAT Harpreet Sapra has an enviable bookshelf, but it’s all on her iPad. She doesn’t feel the need to buy any magazines or books as they are all available for download. Freelance writer Prasad Naik explains his love for eBooks, “The iBooks app has a lovely bookshelf for displaying your eBooks along with page-turning animations. And I don’t have to save hard copies of articles that I might like to revisit.”

Today, the way we consume information is changing. And literature is no exception. Says author Himani Dalmia, “There will be literary apps that allow us to engage with the characters further, poetry apps that will teach us how to read Eliot, and networking sites that encourage us to discuss what we have read with others from around the globe. Our reading habits will change and, yes, the face of literature will change.”

In 10 or 15 years, books and bookshelves will have largely disappeared. Literary culture will no doubt be replaced by different types of media culture and sad as the death of literature may seem, this is not unprecedented.

Nick Ingelbrecht, research director, consumer insight, Gartner says, “Whether Tolstoy would have written War and Peace on a wattpad for iPhone is to some extent irrelevant if 21st century readers lack the interest to ever read such a large volume of text on such a small screen. That is the concern about the future of literature, because if people do not regularly read large amounts of text (whether on screen or paper), there will be less and less demand for and interest in literary culture.”

Quick fix of literature
This does not in any way mean that the quality of literature will diminish. States Dalmia, “There will simply be a transition into another medium and another mode of consuming — as has already happened in the past when we moved from oral traditions to written, and from handwritten manuscripts stored in libraries to ubiquitous books made possible through the printing press. Good stories will always remain and we will always be attracted to them.”

Today, many gadgets and gizmos allow us to get a ‘quick fix’ of literature. Stephanie Mantello of Amazon.com tells us, “Kindle changes the way you read. You can do lots of things which you couldn’t do with a physical book. Think of a book, and have it, ready to read, in less than 60 seconds.”

V K Karthika, publisher, HarperCollins India says, “We are definitely looking to sell the eBook r i g h t s . At present, we do not p u b l i s h any books digitally, but we will work towards this end over the next couple of years. It will take a few years to catch on in India.”

And now T S Eliot’s The Waste Land leads the iPad app chart and has everybody talking about it. We are in the era of convergence and the literature landscape is changing with the times. The Internet has made possible the seismic shift of printed paper text into digital format, suitable for screen-based consumption.

A Gartner global research shows that today, people in developed countries spend nearly as much time reading text on screen as they do on printed paper text. This change has occurred in the space of a single generation. Such a rapid adoption of screen reading comes in spite of evidence that today, many people find reading text on screen harder than reading on paper. “Just as Sophocles’ reservations about the dangers of the oral tradition being overtaken by the written word 2,400 years ago did nothing to slow the transition to writing, the replacement of printed text with screen images (including text) signifies a shift of similar monumental proportions, in which human knowledge will be re-embodied and re-shaped by screen-based modes of transmission,” adds Ingelbrecht. Classical musician Amaan Ali Khan travels a lot abroad for his shows. “While waiting for the flight or at the hotel or in between meetings, I am on my iPad and connect to the news sites and read a good book. I think it’s a boon to be connected to all the happenings in the world.”

Read and tweet
Carrying around hardbound books proved to be very cumbersome for Gautam Odrani, who works for a broking firm. “I started using eBook apps on my Creative tablet and now I can simultaneously tweet from the tablet about what I’m reading.”

Actor Samir Soni has an iPad but doesn’t use it to read books. He orders them from Amazon.com. “Technology is a boon because it has made the written word far more accessible and economical as it does away with middlemen and the cost of paper, etc. The avid reader will read regardless of the medium but the coming generations, with the choices available to them, may never experience the simple pleasures of being tucked in bed and reading a book,” says Soni. As long as it means more power to books and bookworms, nobody’s complaining!

From print to screen

  • The Amazon store now has more than 360,000 books plus newspapers and magazines that you can download and read on your Kindle e-book reader.
  • An Internet source says Amazon has inked a deal with the UK’s British Library to make some 65,000 out-of-print books from the 19th century available as free downloads on its Kindle or for sale as paperbacks via a print-on-demand service.
  • Twitter and Facebook integration on Kindle means millions of customers can share their love of reading instantly with their network of family and friends, and in turn, help them discover new authors, new books, and new ideas.
  • Kindle has also established an iPhone application called Kindle for iPhone.
  • Even on an iPad, you can install Kindle and Barnes & Noble apps for more books.
  • iPad is backed by a large collection of books on the iBookstore and it even supports ePub and PDF files.
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab consumers can access over two million eBooks, 3,000 magazines and 1,600 newspapers in English and vernacular languages.

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The Graphic Novel

The graphic novel was coined as a term to distinguish itself from comics as they supposedly carried more mature and literary content and works of art. In the United States the first form of popular visual books began with the likes of Superman, Batman, Captain America, Green Lantern by DC Comics and various derivations of it with super human strengths and ability to fight evil that came in all shapes and sizes. With colorful names and costumes they vanquished evil using detective methods and mysterious powers. These comics were a subtle way to influence the public opinion regarding social and political ideologies besides serving to idealise the American way of life and preservation. This was particularly important in the years of the world war and subsequent threat of communism in the post world war era. Besides superheroes a lot more funny animal characters were also created and licensed from studios like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny and Woody the Woodpecker which were highly popular. Syndication in major newspapers across the world also increased the readership and following of comics.

In the course of time the comics evolved from simple battles between good and evil to more complex forms of expression with philosophical, sexual and the metaphysical mirroring the changes in the society thus diverging from the juvenile or ‘comic’ to more serious artistic execution.

The term “graphic novel” began to grow in popularity months after it appeared on the cover of the trade paperback edition of Will Eisner’s ‘A Contract with God’ (October 1978). This collection of short stories was a mature, complex work focusing on the lives of ordinary people in the real world. The critical and commercial success of A Contract with God helped to establish the term “graphic novel” in common usage, and many sources have incorrectly credited Eisner with being the first to use it.

From here onwards publishers like Marvel and DC comics started taking more and more interest in the graphic novel business signing on many talents to take on previous works and adapt them and also create new groundbreaking stories. Most importantly were two artists – Alan Moore and Frank Miller who created dark compelling characters with layered storylines. Major among them was Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen.

The Dark Knight Rises was created by Frank Miller who portrayed an aging Batman in a dystopian future mulling over concepts of mortality, vigilantism and heroism. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons came together to create arguably the finest graphic novel in the last century with the setting being in a alternate reality having superheroes who have retired from crime fighting and now living ordinary lives with the threat of nuclear war impending. Time even listed it as one of the best novels of all time.

Alan Moore after a few years also went on to write the Orwellian piece –‘V for Vendetta’ while Miller wrote his very famous ‘300’ about the Battle of Thermopylae and the film noir styled ‘Sin City’.

Of late there have been a whole lot of writers on the Graphic Novel bandwagon because of its popularity and that the chances of it being turned into a movie are very high. Mark Millar is one of the lot making in big with his Wanted starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy and the last year’s Kickass.

With Hollywood reaching its creative nadir in terms of scripts, Graphic Novels are manna from heaven making it with very easy to adapt it to screen with fancy CGI and big stars making it the perfect recipe for summer blockbusters. While some of them are worth the price of a ticket most just take page by page and put it up on the screen.

All in all whether its saving the planet or saving Hollywood, graphic novels are here to stay for now atleast.

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Turning over a new leaf!

Source: Hindustan Times I 27th March 2011 I Sunday

A FRESH CHAPTER Marathi publishing houses, once oblivious to profit margins and marketing techniques, are wooing the next generation with web shops and Kindle-friendly e-books.

Their idea of a marketing campaign used to be rickety wooden tables laden with Marathi tomes and lined up in an empty shop or exhibition space.

The internet is the most person- alised medium available. It's time for publishers to chuck those post- cards and just send an email. I SUNIL MEHTA , head of Mehta Publications

Now, they are setting up snazzy websites with e-stores and uploading titles in PDF format for use on e-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle.

It’s a sea change for a publishing fraternity that has traditionally shunned overt marketing and taken a laissez faire attitude to profit margins.

But, as Marathi publishers are saying, it isn’t just about marketing. It’s about connecting with a new generation of readers in a relevant and effective manner.

“The truth is that the internet is going to be an inseparable part of the average youngster’s life, and that’s why we began our e-journey,“ says Sunil Mehta, 44, owner of Mehta Publishing House.

“Most Marathi publishing houses have their own little retail outlets, but a web store means you are not just reaching out to your city, you are reaching out to the world.“

Mehta’s 33-year-old publishing house recently uploaded on its website excerpts of 1,200 of its titles, in PDF format, giving e-visitors a taste of the works available for purchase online. In another four months, Mehta plans to expand this list of online offerings to include all 3,000 of its titles.

“It’s all about reaching the right market, and the internet can help us reach millions of relevant doorsteps at little cost,“ says Harsha Bhatkal, 48, owner of the 59-year-old Popular Prakashan, iconic Mumbai-based printers of more than 1,000 Marathi works and numerous scholastic and educational texts.

One of the first Marathi publishers to latch on to the Net, Popular Prakashan launched its website in 2002, to showcase its range of offerings by renowned Marathi writers such as Vijay Tendulkar, VD Karandikar and GV Kulkarni.

Two years ago, the website was expanded to include a web store for Marathi and English titles. “We have also started selling Marathi e-books and I believe that that’s where the future lies,“ says Bhatkal. “I have already seen the Web market for Marathi literature grow significantly over the past year.“

The Net is also reaping rich rewards for Ameya Prakashan, which launched its website in 1998 and recently expanded its web store and e-book offerings.

“I have always believed in the web as a medium of reaching out to readers, and now I believe as strongly in the potential of e-books,“ says Ulhas Latkar, 45, head of Ameya Prakashan, which hired a consultant to help make the website more attractive and easier to navigate.

We Maharashtrians are to be blamed for not making Marathi literature visible enough in the market. The internet has given us a fresh opportunity. HARSHA BHATKAL , head of Popular Prakashan

The e-store now offers 25 titles, including translations of best-selling books by US President Barack Obama, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar.

“We’re now getting 25 hits on our site every day, up from 20 about three months ago,“ says Latkar. “And the hits are translating into online and offline sales in 5% of the cases.”

One of those new-age Web-savvy Marathi book buyers is Harshal Mahajan, 30, a Thane resident who regularly buys books on e-bookstores such as sahyadribooks.org and marathimati.com.

“Now I don’t have to go hopping from shop to shop, trying to find books to suit my specific interests,“ he says. “These websites have given me much better access to Marathi literature and made it much easier for me to find books I have been searching for.“

The websites are also getting hits from Indians living abroad.

“The diaspora is getting stronger these days and it’s easiest for NRIs to order through the internet,“ says Bhatkal. “We are also getting orders from governments of countries like the US, UK and Canada, where there are large Indian communities and public libraries wish to stock samples of their vernacular literature.”

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How Shakespeare is still relevant to the Facebook Generation

It would not be an exaggeration to state that Shakespeare is
a name that is synonymous with literature. His works have been studied by students and performed by theatre enthusiasts for decades.  The true genius of Shakespeare and his works lies in the fact that uttering his name would elicit at least a faint recognition even from someone who has not studied literature, or read any of his plays. That is certainly not the case with other noteworthy writers of that era including Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson.

No other writer or playwright in the history of literature has enjoyed the popularity and following as the “Bard of Avon” which is strange, considering the fact that Shakespeare wrote in Elizabethan English (an outdated form of English) and his plays reflect the customs and traditions of the Elizabethan age.

When you read Shakespeare for the first time, it takes a few pages to get used to the archaic vocabulary and grammar. Yet, this has not stopped people from reading the plays and hailing them as an important milestone in dramatics and literature. This brings us to the title of this topic and a question that is worth asking: How is Shakespeare still relevant in the Facebook Generation?

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter has brought about a cultural revolution in the way we interact with our friends and the world in general. As long as you have an internet connection, catching up with your friends is just a click away. Social networking sites have also provided a platform for the public to voice their opinions and even start a revolt as the recent uprising in Egypt has demonstrated.

In such a time and age, are the works of a 16th century playwright still relevant? The one word answer to this question is…yes.

The reason why the “Bard of Avon” is still relevant to those of us who type exclusively in 140 characters (read: the twitterati) is because Shakespeare’s plays were based on themes central to human emotions that are a focal point of our existence. In other words, the plays centred on emotions such as jealousy, love, hate, lust, greed, which will never go out of fashion as long as we exist.

Take Macbeth for instance. The tragic tale of a hero turned thrown usurper is one of the bard’s finest tragedies. The play opens with Macbeth returning victorious in battle and the king applauding him for his outstanding bravery. Unbridled greed and ambition soon takes centre stage with Lady Macbeth inciting her vulnerable husband to kill the king and rightfully take his place. The psychological effect (conscience in layman’s terms) of the cold blooded murder takes a toll on the despairing Lady Macbeth who tries to invisible bloodstains off her hands.

We may be more connected to our friends today, thanks to social media, but we still feel pangs of jealousy when colleagues or even our friends achieve something and are in the spotlight. There are moments when greed and ambition still force us to go against our conscience and commit actions that we later regret. Jealousy and greed, however, are not the only emotions that we continue to share.

Love, brotherhood, compassion are some of the other emotions that are central to our existence. In Romeo and Juliet, the two central characters cast aside familial enmity and fall in love with each other. The love that they share is pure in its essence and devoid of any ulterior motives. In the same play, the brotherhood shared between Romeo and Mercutio is so strong that the latter gives up his life and saves Romeo.

We have moved from caves to cities, but we still experience the emotions of friendship and love and share it with people around us. In fact, social media itself is based on the principle that it allows you to befriend other users and stay in touch with constant friends. Social media sites have essayed the role of cupid too- just like the two angels in A Midsummer’s Night Dream– and have helped users to discover love.

Apart from the emotional content, Shakespeare’s contemporary relevance can be traced to his immense contributions to the modern English language. In the age of Shakespeare, there were no standard set of rules for the way English was spoken or written. The bard’s use of grammar and sentence structure has pretty much shaped the way we talk and write the Queen’s language today. When you say “with bated breath” or “a foregone conclusion”, remember that Shakespeare was the first to use these phrases.

Though we have evolved as a technologically advanced race, we still experience the same emotions that people did back in Shakespeare’s times. As long as we continue to experience shared emotions such as love, joy, guilt, greed, and compassion, the bard’s plays will live on in our collective consciousness.

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E Books and the Dawn of the Interactive Novel

Once upon a time…books were available only in paperback format.  There was a certain aura surrounding the ubiquitous paperback as readers delved into the pages of a book and entered a literary world created by the author. Books were read under a reading light, in trains and buses, or while sitting on a comfortable couch with the warmth of a fireplace for company.  Serious readers considered bookshelves that boasted of ancient classics and intelligent reads to be an important part of their home decor.

With the internet revolution, books, like other forms of mass media, underwent a digital transformation and the e book was born. Initially, publishers feared that e books could have a negative impact on the publishing industry the same way digital music affected the music business. Those fears were laid to rest when readers preferred to wind down with their favourite novels at the end of the day rather than read one off the computer screen.

E books have largely been perceived as digital avatars of their paperback cousins. The physical makeup of an e book is similar to its paperback cousin: Both have textual matter arranged in the form of chapters. This is set to change with e-book readers or e-readers such as Kindle rising in popularity with reading enthusiasts.

Readers are now reading more e books than paperbacks. E readers with their massive memories allow users to carry a whole library of books in their pockets. This allows users to read multiple books simultaneously.

A paperback novel contains text, and in special cases graphic art such as maps. An e book can go beyond textual matter and open up a whole new dimension to readers, albeit a more interactive experience. Authors can indulge their readers in a lot more information without it affecting the pace and the plot of the novel.

Reference material and bibliographies at the end of books, or pasted in footnotes, could transform into live information sources in the form of hyperlinks. All that the reader would have to do is click the link as they read the novel to gain a deeper understanding. The link would then direct them to the relevant information, and they would be able to do this instantly than postpone reading the reference.

E books have the potential to create a literary universe in the palm of your hands. The back-story of a side character, which is important to the plot but cannot be accommodated in the novel, can find a voice through images and short videos that would display if the reader clicked the character name.

The rising popularity of the digital book could have a huge impact on the very form of literature itself. The heightened interactivity an e book promises to offer may transform the way books are written and conceived. In the near future you could have e books replete with references to images, videos, or even songs.

With an interactive e book, the possibilities are endless.

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