tajThose of us in the west tend to take a somewhat US- and Eurocentric view of the e-book world, but it’s interesting sometimes to consider how other parts of the world see e-books.Thanks to PressReader, I’ve run across some stories from Southern Asian papers lately, and they can be an interesting revelation.

For example, there’s this story from the Mumbai Free Press Journal that looks at how e-books are changing the dynamics of publishing. In India, e-books are still trying to find their footing after a slow start, but Indian e-publishers are experimenting with publishing inexpensive condensed versions of books with the full version as a separate purchase, or with subscription formats. (I mentioned Chiki Sarkar’s startup Juggernaut the other day, which is trying some of these techniques.)

Publishers are also trying to shorten books in general, because of a perception that mobile users tend to have shorter attention spans and more constraints on their time.

“With WhatsApp and Twitter, our reading span has been adversely affected. I was approached by an author who closed his book at 100,000 words. As far as I am concerned that is a problem. I asked him if there was a logical break point so that we can have two books. A range of 40,000 to 60,000 words is appropriate for an ebook, so that it feels substantial and we can price it suitably. We are selling more ebooks than a few years ago,” says APK CEO Prashant Karhade.

That actually puts me in mind of Baen and other publishers in the west, who’ve been known to do the same thing when their authors turn in immensely long novels. It happened to David Weber’s Hell Gate, and also Charlie Stross’s Merchant Princes books. Clearly, it’s not anything unique to India, but it’s interesting to see they’ve come to the same conclusion.

Karhade also thinks e-books should engage readers with color and audiovisual content to stand out, but that’s something that hasn’t gone over too well in the west yet. But who knows—perhaps they can make it work.

Meanwhile, students find lower prices of e-books and the ease of carrying many books around to be the big selling points of reading on mobile devices. “Now there is no excuse to not finding time to read. I recently picked up the habit of reading on my mobile and I am enjoying it,” said social science student Nilesh Kumar.

Perhaps they’re not so very different from us over here after all.


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