Your story is the media partner of the Bangalore Business Literature Festival (BBLF) 2022, which will be held this week in a hybrid online and offline format. See our previous annual articles on the BBLF from the 2015 edition here, and our compilation of 85 World Book Day quotes.
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In our fifth preview article, we share insights from 10 speakers on the comparative strengths of abridged books and digital media, tips for budding writers, and current reading lists.
Print and digital media
Print and digital, long and short content can coexist in the media space. They offer different capabilities and cater to reading preferences in various ways, as speakers and authors explain.
“The nature of the content and the audience it serves are different. Therefore, the two can co-exist,” observes TN Hari, a well-respected angel investor, venture capitalist and author.
“Short-form web and video content has universal appeal, but the target audience is really those who don’t have the patience to consume long-form content. In earlier times, this audience would have consumed magazine content and newspapers,” he adds.
This has been replaced with short form web and video content. “The public for books, whether printed or digital, is always the same, namely those who want quality and depth content on a particular theme or topic,” says Hari.
“India is not a reading country and the habit has unfortunately only diminished over the years. I think the main reason is that the books don’t appeal to the country’s dominant demographic – people between the ages of 18 and 30,” observes entrepreneur and author Ankur Warikoo.
This audience is a massive consumer of short content. “So the books have to be written accordingly, in order to compete,” he adds.
“Books and web/video target different audiences and use cases. For example, the use case of a non-fiction book is for readers to delve into concepts and from a single point of view storytelling,” explains Ujwal Kalra, co-author of Startup compass.
“There is always a teaser and a real film. The simplified web is like a teaser,” says Nagaraja Prakasam, angel investor, mentor and fund advisor.
“I think print and digital books will always co-exist with short form content and in many ways there is a need for that,” observes Suresh Narasimha, Managing Partner, Cocreate Ventures.
“Short form content is snack content, there will always be a place for it and there will always be demand and many creators to create content. Even long form content creators are also looking at content from short form,” he observes.
However, Suresh thinks serious readers will still opt for long-form physical and digital books. “People who like to read and want to experience different facets of life are avid readers; the same is true for many children,” he adds. He expects digital to be shorter and print to continue with long-form content.
“The ease of access to information through the media is a great advantage”, explains the architect-designer Vijaya Bhargav, partner at Ostraca. Although she considers books to be diminishing, they will co-exist with other media because the experience is different.
“I read both on digital media and I love collecting books, especially on architecture. For me, the book is an emotion,” she adds.
“I guess it’s also what generation you ask that question. I’m from a generation that experienced pre-internet life including books. So I’m in some ways in favor of physical content, whether it’s be it books, newspapers or magazines,” explains Govindraj Ethiraj, founder of BOOM FactCheck and IndiaSpend.org.
He sees the two mediums coexisting, even though the digital may have already overtaken the physical. “A lot of short and/or video content is not necessarily educative the way books are, so it might not be an ideal comparison unless you’re choosing two different activities that both take time,” he adds.
“These different forms of media can certainly coexist. There is something timeless about a printed book that no electronic medium can touch. That said, people’s attention spans are shrinking, so short e-content has its place as well,” adds Siddharth Pai, author of Techproof Me: The art of mastering ever-changing technology.
Books and readers
The authors also explain how their books have fared in the marketplace and what they have done to engage with audiences in digital media.
“My book, Do some epic shit, reached No. 1 in India upon release and has sold over 170,000 copies, making it one of the best-selling books of 2021-22,” says Ankur.
“I think the reasons for this are threefold. It was written without a beginning or end (so there was no commitment to finish the book). It was written in short form (so there is no story as such). He dealt with the feelings of the 18-30 year old segment and what they are going through,” he describes.
“I think my books have been well received. The reason is that my books reflect and amplify what I write in short form on other platforms like LinkedIn and online media. My books are also in tune with my brand,” says TN Hari.
“Therefore, they are read by people who have an idea of what to expect. I am invited on several occasions to speak after the publication of a book and it is probably my only way of engage with the public after the publication of one of my books,” he adds.
Govindraj Ethiraj reads a lot of non-fiction because he thinks authors spend a lot of time and energy on just one book. “To that extent, what we hold in our hands – whether on Kindle or in print – represents a mighty knowledge, distilled and otherwise. It is in our interests to read more and expand our own understanding of the world around us,” he says.
The impact of the pandemic on the books
The pandemic has forced many book festivals to shut down for a while or shift to online medium. It has also spawned new types of content and opportunities for authors.
“The pandemic has given wings to a new group of authors. People who had a passion for writing but were distracted by the busy world they were stuck in suddenly had the time, energy, and drive to write a book,” observes TN Hari.
“The number of Indian authors published in recent years has seen a sharp increase, and this is a very positive sign,” he adds.
“Unfortunately, I don’t see any significant trends for the book industry post-pandemic that are positive in my opinion. Books will die slowly if nothing is changed from a content perspective,” Ankur adds.
Bangalore BizLitFest authors also share content from their playlists. Ankur reads an average of one book per week, mostly non-fiction. “I just finished reading The Carbon Almanac by Seth Godin. I am currently reading Subhash Chandra’s autobiography of ZEE,” he says.
Hari reads a wide range of books: Richer, wiser, happier, by William Green; The seductive art of hard work, by Utkarsh Amitabh; The 10 new life-changing skills, by Rajesh Srivastava; Carefree at 30, by Shalini Prakash; and The hidden brain by Shankar Vedantam.
V.Raghunathan, author of more than 15 books on management and culture, has several titles on his reading list this month. They understand Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man Who Invented the 20th Century by Robert Lomas; Thinking better: the art of the shortcut, by Marcus du Saut; and The geography of happinessby Eric Weiner.
In fiction it reads norwegian forest by Haruki Murakami, Ret Samadhi and the Sand Tomb (Hindi and English versions) by Gitanjali Shree and The triumph of the sun by Wilbur Smith.
Siddharth Pai is reading Why Don’t You Love Me? by Mitchell Springer (about racial/age demographic changes in the United States) and Duped by chance by Nissim Nicholas Taleb. John C Havens, author of Cardiac intelligenceis reading Pilots Circle, Everyman’s McLuhan, and Net positive.
Vijaya Bhargav is reading The importance of a drawing (Louis Khan) Atomic Habits (James Clair) The power of intention (Wayne W Dyer), and The art of winning (Radhakrishnan Pillai).
Some of the authors also offer tips for aspiring writers and authors on focus, habits, and mindset.
“Either you write for yourself and don’t care about the numbers, or you care about the numbers and write for your reader,” advises Ankur.
“Write what you like. Write a first draft without listening to your own critical voice or the voices of others,” recommends John.
“Learn to make sacrifices— like giving up some of their socializing, partying, or entertaining, and dedicating consistent, persistent time to writing each day, a minimum of two hours, whether you’re in the mood or not. And read. Those who cannot read cannot write,” advises Raghunathan.
He signs on a humorous note: “There is also no difference between those who do not read and those who cannot read. And by reading, we’re not talking about WhatsApp messages!