New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee's yet-to-be released book has already created a controversy -- not for its content but for an "exclusive deal" signed by its publishers with an online retailer. Bookstores have termed the publisher's choice "monopolistic" and "unfair", and many have decided to boycott the publisher.
The publisher Rupa has signed a deal with amazon.in, giving the online platform exclusive rights to sell the book "The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years" for 21 days.
President Pranab Mukherjee
The book, to be launched on Mukherjee's birthday Dec 11, will only be available in bookstores after three weeks and this will invariably give a huge advantage to the online portal.
Bookstore owners are not happy with this exclusivity and prominent shops like Om Bookstore and Bahri Sons have decided to boycott Rupa and are in the process of sending back its earlier books.
"How stupid it is of a publisher, who has sold more than 5,000 books, to sell this one book exclusively to the online retailer? Are we jokers sitting here? Who is going to do justice to his other books," Anuj Bahri, CEO of Bahri Sons, a leading Delhi-based publisher and distributor, told IANS.
"We have decided to boycott all his books. If he thinks he can survive on his own, without the trade, then good for him. It is his policy and his decision. Let him sell all his other books through the online platform," he added.
Ajay Mago of Om Bookstores questioned the medium the publishers have chosen, as the online platform in the West has already sounded the death knell for brick-and-mortar stores.
"We have nothing against the online medium, but in this case, what should be questioned is why the publishers have chosen this medium to sell the book. Why they chose to restrict offline selling for three weeks," asked Mago.
This, Mago feels, is adding to the woes of bookstores who have to manage salaries and staff.
With online platforms offering generous discounts on books -- as much as 60 percent that exceeds the margin publishers usually offer to bookstores, the hugely-discounted books act as a bait for readers who have started ordering books online.
"What we have seen in the last couple of years is that people would come to the bookstore and then order books online. What we are saying is that online platforms should behave like another bookstore. They should offer sensible discounts," Mago told IANS.
He said most online retailers were incurring losses and disturbing the entire industry.
According to Charan Singh Rawat, sales manager of Jain Book Store, the publisher (Rupa) has been drawing silly rules for the past one year.
"This had happened previously with Chetan Bhagat's latest novel. The publisher has been telling us not to sell the book online. What sense does it make? Such tantrums won't be accepted and they can't run the business like this," Rawat told IANS.
"We have told them we won't keep their books on such terms and conditions. We can't afford to sell books with such huge margins. So let them sell books exclusively online," he added.
When IANS contacted Kapish Mehra, managing director of Rupa, he offered "no comments".
However, Amazon's public relation team said that for them, it was another channel to reach out to the customers and the publisher would be the best to throw light on this arrangement.
Priyanka Malhotra, director of Full Circle and Hind Pocket Books, feels that when a publisher chooses to sell his or her book as a commodity, there is a problem, because then it is not about literature and reading anymore, it is about hard-selling.
"For books to be sold through physical stores and also online is fair. But to sell exclusively through an online retailer, cutting out the traditional bookstore completely seems self-defeating," Malhotra told IANS.
She feels publishers, authors and readers should respect each other's role.
"Publishers need our support to sell their books. It is important for us to realise that bookstores (online and brick-and-mortar), publishers, authors and readers understand and respect each other's role," she added.