Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Is this a new genre or what?

Chetan Bhagat started it.

And when he did it, he would not have imagined that he was opening a can of kiddie writers! Suddenly bookstores became full of Bhagat wannabes, and the surprising thing is that the trend is far from being over! When J K Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, there were a lot of clones which came up and some of them were successful. Similarly, when Stephanie Meyer wrote the Twilight series, a lot of other writers came up with vampire-based plots, but they seldom sold. These books and writers usually fade away, and the funny thing is that most of thee books are published by non-mainstream publishing houses.

However, with Indian writing, there is a new trend happening - and it is constantly growing! While at our local bookstore, there was this huge pile of books on topics ranging from Love at IIT to Friendship at IIM, and everything in between (and beyond)! What was common to all these books was the cartoonish pictures on their covers and their strange (and often raunchy titles). What surprises me is that there are people buying these - obviously! While the other clones of popular novels have been published by obscure publishers, most of these young Indian fiction books are published by leading publications! 

Is it because the young generation (read as about 60% of the Indian population) is experiencing an awakening in reading interest? Or is it because there are people who are willing to write for free (which again is obvious), and publishers are confident that the printing cost will anyway be recovered by sales generated through the new means of Social Networking? Either way, there is one positive from it - people seem to be reading!
For a very long time, India (along with most of the other countries in the world) has been losing the reading habit, and there was a time a few years ago when e-books seriously were threatening the future of paper books, but thankfully they did not catch on. While it is a fact that the number of books sold and lent from libraries were on the decrease, it is also a fact that the trend has reversed and is on the rise - thanks to the emergence of young fiction as a specific genre in writing.

Young Fiction is today so popular that we have the world's best writers looking this way - like John Grisham and his new book - Theodore Boone - specifically targeted towards the young audience. While the book is not much of a bestseller, it is surely an indication of things to come.

Coming back to the Indian youth writing scene, the writers are getting younger each day! Last week there was this book on display, which was supposedly written by a student of class 8 in a school from Delhi! What's next? A Kindergarten student's 'life-changing experience' of his first day at school? Most of these books won't sell the first print, and will never ever see the second print. Most of these writers won't ever write a book again! But the positive outcome seems that even this trash is getting a few people to read - and once they begin reading, there is no looking back!

Talk about the silver lining!


Ankita said...

i know, after the success of bhagat, a lot of similar things turned up on many of indian bookstore shelves and started a whole new trend of 'campus novels'. as you pointed out they're just wannabes giving writing a shot and trying to make it big like bhagat, but no one can blame them, its the market thats been created by aftermath of sales generated by 'five point someone'. but i don't know if these trends are going to turn people into potential readers. these books just offer amusement out of someones maybe life changing incidents, they're not that well written to spark interest to reading more books. i think reading habit should be cultivated into a person at a young age, like 11 or 13. they could be younger but thats when i started reading. i started off with enid blyton famous five' and secret seven series and kept up with nancy drew and hardy boys, found out what obsession is with harry potter series and now at the age of 19 i am an avid admirer of works of amitav ghosh, jane austen, Katherine mansfield, j k rowling, markus zusak, agatha christie and i'm still exploring the literary world. i hope that there would be more bookworms around in india in future and then we might also have well-equipped grand libraries here maintained by the government just like they have in states.

ఆదిత్య said...

Well said Ankita :)

Shilpa said...

Stumbled upon your blog through a friend's following. Interesting point you have on the reading habits in India. I too get really surprised that people actually buy these cloned books and unlike the world wide phenomenon, Indians are ok with reading them. What worries me though is that the publishing house's disinclination towards trying originality and inclination towards publishing the clones because it worked for one. As we have already witnessed, the clones are usually not of great quality. By repeatedly publishing these, are our publishing houses pulling down the quality of written word in India? Shouldn't they be more open to original titles and stories that would broaden Indian readers horizon?
Secondly, though ebook has not caught on with Indians, it is huge in America (which mostly drives the publishing world) and other first world countries. The print publishing is coming down in tatters and it is heart breaking. This trend is yet to catch up in India because ebook costs would still be higher for us so are the ebook readers. But it is not far. Personally, the thrill of holding the book and reading it cornered in your plush sofa is heavenly experience. I wonder if a kindle or ipad can do that...:)
That was my two pence. Thought-provoking post! :D
- Shilpa