The book is dead? Long live the book, authors say

Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:31am EST
 
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By Henry Foy

JAIPUR, India (Reuters Life!) - Rubbishing those who hail the digital age as the end for books, publishing industry players and best-selling authors on Saturday hailed a new dawn for publishing, with India's voracious readers at its forefront.

Book sales have been squeezed in recent years by e-books and the huge success of Amazon.Com's Kindle reader, but India's booming publishing market is proof of the physical book's staying power, said participants at Asia's largest literary event, the DSC Jaipur Literary Festival.

"You read something on Twitter and you know it is ephemeral," said Patrick French, a best-selling historian and biographer who has written extensively on Asia. "Yet the book is a solid thing. The book endures."

Regional language novelists and poets rubbed shoulders with Nobel laureates and Booker Prize winners at the seventh festival to be held in the historical pink-tinged city of Jaipur, the capital of India's northwestern Rajasthan state.

Hundreds of book lovers attended a debate on the fate of printed books in the sun-drenched grounds of a former palace as part of the free five-day event.

"The idea of the book dying comes up all the time. It's wrong. I think this is a wonderful time for books, to enlarge the audience of the book and draw in more readers," said John Makinson, Chairman and CEO of the Penguin Group of publishers.

"Books matter more in India than anywhere else we publish them," added Makinson, whose Penguin Group is one of the world's largest English-language publishers.

While book sales slip in most western countries, the non-academic book market in India is currently growing at a rate of 15 to 18 percent annually, as rapid economic growth swells literacy rates and adds millions to the middle class every year.   Continued...