It’s just the leg up Indian language publishers needed in the age of e-books. Launched in April 2013 by former techies Santanu Chowdhury and Surojit Saha, Kolkata’s Swiftboox is an e-book aggregation and distribution platform for Indian language publishing. It is working with 20 publishers, including Ananda Publishers of the ABP group, to digitise and distribute their e-books. “In the long run, publishers need to focus on the content. Conversion and distribution need a partner,” says Chowdhury. Apart from Hindi, Marathi and Malayalam, the focus will be on Assamese and Bengali books. “Sales per capita for these is highest in India.” With over 250 titles on board and another 30-40 being added every month, Swiftboox has put in place a proprietary technology for digital conversion and applied for a patent.
Overcoming mindsets is more difficult in regional publishing, which is dominated by small and mid-size firms. “Publishers are very sceptical about e-books,” says Chowdhury. Currently, Swiftboox digitises books for publishers without a charge and takes a revenue share from sales. Its target customer is the Indian diaspora, which finds it difficult to get physical copies of older titles — two-thirds of sales come from overseas, particularly the UK and the US. The duo is currently in talks with angel investors for the first round of funding.