With a lively physical bookstore alongside a sprawling e-commerce platform, MarkMyBook is a marketplace dedicated to books.
Known for highly competitive pricing, MarkMyBook has also ventured into publishing. Their self-publishing arm caters to the needs of aspiring writers. And as the COVID-19 situation continues to affect the interests of the publishing indusrty, MarkMyBook finds itself in a rather unique position to learn, unlearn and relearn the publishing lessons. In an attempt to gauge the situation on the ground for self-publishing and the thought process of booksellers during this pandemic, we talk to Manish Dhariwal, the owner of MarkMyBook.
Following is an excerpt from a recent interview that Wonderpublish conducted with Manish Dhariwal:
Q 1: Mark My Book is a marketplace for books. How are you adapting to COVID-19 as an e-commerce avenue?
Good and bad often come hand-in-hand. Definitely COVID-19 is one of the most deadly threats to mankind till date but it has come up with many learnings. As a marketplace for books, this is a time for us to assess & study the customer behaviour post-COVID-19 & reinvent our business accordingly. The scenario for a product-specific marketplace like us will be completely changed. In coming days we’ll be incorporating tools & features for our readers to make some lucrative use of the platform.
Q 2: How is this lockdown going to affect the competitive book prices that you are known for?
Well, the buying preferences will definitely be changed once the lockdown is over. Some section will really get badly affected by the recession and some by the sentiment of recession. Reading books as a hobby may not find its place in purchase priority of Indian middle class. Publishers and bookseller will have to work-out ways and means to make books available at a really cheaper price.
Q 3: You have also dabbled in self-publishing. What does that landscape look like now?
Though an integral part of the publishing industry, it’s a completely different domain, which I don’t think will see any long term effects of COVID-19. If we see from the perspective of the author who wants to get published she/he may postpone the idea of getting published for few months but will not keep hold for longer duration as it’s the career opportunity or dream come true situation for some of them.
Q 4: What do you think of the ebooks & audiobooks? Do you think as new users take to e-books, the interest can be sustained even after the lockdown period?
This is one domain which I think will come up with surprises. Though both being digital version of books, audio & e-books will see an entirely different reaction of listeners /readers post COVID-19.
Audiobooks may see a major growth whereas E-books might not. The reason is pretty simple, e-books are best readable on a kindle device, one doesn’t get the feel of a book reading in the app installed on a smartphone. On the contrary one doesn’t need an extra device to listen books and she/he can listen it while commuting.
Q 5: As social media keeps us engaged virtually, what are some of the ways MarkMyBook is reaching out to its readers and potential customers?
That’s the most important thing for us as of now. As I said earlier, we need to keep our userbase intact and there is no better hook than social media. Keeping both the readers and aspiring authors in mind we started an initiative named Kalamkari via Facebook live. We called noted writers of every stream to come there and conduct workshops to write and create effective content for book publishing, scriptwriting, radio copywriting, journalism, OTT platforms and every other stream. With Kalamkari we could not only keep our readers hooked but could also engage more readers with us in general.
Q 6: As books are not considered essential commodities, the vulnerability of print books has become self-evident. As a bookshop owner yourself, what do suggest to the authorities to make the future secure for the industry?
I see bookshops & print books as two different segments of the industry. The bookshops are more vulnerable or you can say that it is almost like end of the road for traditional bookshop selling general fiction and non-fiction books. I don’t think post-COVID-19 anybody in India is going to consider it as a career option. One will have to add academic books, stationery and lot more products to make the business model of bookshop sustainable. For print books it might be just a roadblock, in few months things will be almost normal, buying habits may change, maybe publishers have to sell at the low margin for a year but after that, the total sales will be back to normal. Yes, books should be added in the list of essential commodities, but will it be in the priority list of authorities, is a tough question to answer.
Q 7: Lastly, how are you managing your time while working from home?
It is difficult as every hour is office hour now. Either being glued to laptop making several plans for post-COVID-19 business opportunities or maintaining the home with the family has been my primary activity. I’m an old fashioned guy in the sense that I don’t watch those Netflix and amazon series, instead, I watched the Harry Potter series with my daughter.
Visit https://markmybook.com/ to know more about their titles.