Demand for non-fiction on the rise albeit substandard

Udisa Islam
Published : 02:00, Feb 08, 2019 | Updated : 13:44, Feb 08, 2019

The nineties book market in Bangladesh was dominated by short stories, novels and dramas but with time, non-fiction genre has carved a niche of its own. Publishers are of the view that the market of non-fiction is flourishing due to the demand and its scope is limitless.
Research-based authors, on the other hand, feel ‘motivational books’ are dominating the non-fiction market but think that it will not continue to be so. Many amongst them feel that the non-fiction are not up to the standard as they lack both originality and preparation.
Speaking to Bangla Tribune about what defines ‘motivational books’ University Press Limited (UPL) Director Mahrukh Mohiuddin said, “These are basically books that guide the readers about the various issues in life.”
“In the past, we had books by Dale Carnegie in the market and the young authors are writing similar content and gaining popularity,” he added.
Responding to queries about the reason behind the popularity, he said that these writers build up a fan base through other means beforehand. According to him these readers have a very specific taste and are only interested in this type of content.
“Because they enter the book market through these readers, their books sell fast from the very beginning.”
Penguin Random House, one of the most popular publishing houses worldwide said that throughout the whole world, non-fiction are selling more than fictions and the gap has increased in the last five years. Their claim was based on data from the Association of American Publishers (AAP), US Bureau of Economic Analysis and BookScan.
After 2014, the sale of non-fiction literature increased by almost one-and-half billion dollars in the world book market. In Bangladesh, during the 2018 book fair motivational speaker and writer Ayman Sadiq sold a surprising 50,000 copies of his book.
On the other hand, Chamak Hassan became popular with kids with his book containing the solution to easy math and science problems.
The popularity of non-fiction is such that even Humayun Ahmed and Jafar Iqbal fans are leaning towards that genre.
Chamak Hassan’s publishing house Adarsha Publishers’ Mahbubur Rahman told Bangla Tribune, “The demand for non-fiction has been on the rise since 2015.”
“Writers of this genre publish after building up a fan base and hence their books sell more,” he added.
Saying that kids are the primary customers of this kind of book, he added, “It’s possible to compare the reality of the new world order with our time.”
He said that the readers these have a taste for books which gives guidelines on how to deal with everyday life challenges.
Meanwhile, motivation speaker Ayman Sadiq who runs Ten Minute School, an online platform for educational videos thinks that the demand for non-fiction will only increase more because they are releasing popular content that meets the readers’ demands.
Sadiq, who sold 50,000 copies of his books said, “I didn’t suddenly enter the book market. I produced online content for years and worked for Ten Minute School. We have a group that has almost 1.5 million followers.”
Talking about whether this demand will prevail, he said that the taste of the readers in terms of content has changed.
“They want things that are useful to them in easy language. They don’t like long dramas but prefer small funny clips.”
He said that a content that is made keeping the readers’ taste in mind can never lose market.
On the other hand, Chamak Hassan who entered the publishing world after building up a solid fan base of coaching centre students through YouTube videos sad that the current generation is finding gratification with math and science.
Saying the market will be tougher for newcomers, Hassan said, “I didn’t make my debut as a writer but as an online teacher.”
“It won’t be easy if one wants to enter the market directly as a writer. First, they have to build up a fan following and then think of publishing a book after they have gleaned some idea about the readers’ taste,” he added.
Raising questions about the standard of non-fiction books educationist and Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Dr Sirajul Islam Chowdhury said that there wasn’t much demand for it in Bangladesh.
Saying that the demand for essays has increased, he added, “Changes have taken place but not as much as needed because of the limited cultivation of knowledge.”
Islam said that motivational writings are popular in general but it must be monitored that the guidelines don’t deviate the readers and are up to the mark.
“It’s important to raise questions about research-based non-fiction because they don’t follow any international standards,” he said.
The professor said that the universities in our country don’t facilitate encouraging research.
UPL Director Mahiuddin thinks that there is a reader base for the works of Jafar Iqbal and Humayun Ahmed but it was becoming increasingly difficult to find a “star writer.”
He said that there is a demand for research-based historical science literature but it would be a mistake to judge the market based on motivational books.