Any UK publishers currently working up a mild sweat at the state of the industry should maybe consider a sojourn in the east: figures released by Nielsen BookScan India this week show a voracious, widespread appetite for the printed word emerging on the subcontinent, with the Indian book market growing 40% in value and a huge 45% in volume in the first six months of 2011 alone. Adult fiction took the biggest leap of any category, with that same six month period showing a 49% growth in value and an astronomical 82% growth in volume, and further “steep growth” in the latter half of the year.
Nielsen gives much of the credit for this continued growth to the fourth quarter release of Chetan Bhagat’s English language Revolution 2020, which is currently sitting at number 63,365 in Amazon’s UK bestsellers list but has so far racked up a truly staggering, stock of adjectives-depleting 280,000 sales in India alone. The novel – Bhagat’s fifth, all of them bestsellers – has clearly touched a nerve with its tale of a love triangle developing between three childhood friends, set against the vagaries of the Indian education system. Despite being relatively unknown in the west, Bhagat’s status as ‘the biggest selling English language author in India’s history’ seems secure for some time to come.
Bhagat’s achievement is, if alien to western eyes, at least understandable the more you research his work. More surprising perhaps is the huge success of Disgraced Tory Peer (man, that never gets old) Jeffrey Archer’s 2011 novel Only Time Will Tell, which was the fifth biggest selling novel in India last year with sales of over 48,000. Some may argue that its triumph – including stellar first day sales – has something to do with Archer launching his world book tour in Bangalore on the day of publication, but consider this: if you were to meet Jeffrey Archer in person, would you really be more inclined to read one of his books as a result?