Saturday, March 20, 2010

Coming of age

Indian publishing boasts of a thriving children’s market, but it has remained limited in scope...

Worldwide, readers of young adult (YA) fiction have never had it so good. That trend is now gathering steam in India. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, House of Night, Twilight, Princess Diaries — young adult (YA) readers have never had it so good. But while shelves overflow with YA books of every genre, if you go looking for home-grown fare, the view is rather more dismal.

Indian publishing boasts of a thriving children’s market, but it has remained limited in scope. Classics, folk tales and mythology have been rehashed and regurgitated innumerable times, suiting both publishers who are largely content to stick with the tried and tested, and parents who decide what children ought to read. And while there is a fair amount of original writing for younger children, it is slim pickings in the YA segment. In fact, YA itself is a category difficult to pin down, more so since young people trying to find their place in the larger scheme of things are near impossible to slot into convenient “types”. One thing is clear: while the term might be “a snappy shorthand for a global phenomenon”, as Anita Roy of the YA publisher Young Zubaan puts it, there’s no doubt that pre-20 age group is hungry for good literature.

Globally, the crossover market to which YA belongs, comprising books that appeal to youngsters as well as adults, has taken off in a big way. The trend has not escaped the notice of Indian publishers. So far only a handful — Young Zubaan, Puffin, Hachette, Scholastic and HarperCollins, to name a few — are actively exploring it, but it is early days yet.

In India YA publishing has gotten the cold shoulder. A well-rounded exploration of adolescence hasn’t been a strength, says Vatsala Kaul Banerjee, editorial director (children’s and reference books) at Hachette India. Reaching out to this category of readers is not simple: “Ever tried being interesting to a 16-year-old?” she asks. Not easy, since young people are discerning readers.

Full report here Business Standard

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