IN EARLY 2014, when Sreekumar Narayanan walked into a bookstore to buy a book, he was told that it was unavailable. The Chennai resident then went online to search for it on various e-commerce sites, but the book was ‘out-of-print’ there too. “I contacted the publisher, who explained that the book had been phased out, as it was not commercially viable to print copies of it in bulk. I was flabbergasted, as in this day and age, and despite having so many new technologies at our disposal, it makes no sense for titles to be ‘out-of-stock’,” he says.
Narayanan, who is also the founder of Bhavish Print Solutions, a digital printing company, then worked with many publishers to identify how many such titles they had. “We found that, over time, most publishers had amassed a huge backlist of out-of-print titles—sometimes running into tens of thousands—that weren’t monetised. At the same time, these were books that readers like you and me were looking for. That’s when it struck me that there was a viable business model in enabling publishers to keep such books alive,” the 41-year-old says. Thus was born SansRack, an on-demand book distribution platform that enables publishers of all sizes to bring their entire catalogue to life.
Working with both domestic and international publishers, SansRack aims to eliminate the phrase ‘out-of-print’ from the publishing world. It also aims to make it possible for international books, which are usually imported into India, to be produced locally and sold at affordable prices to Indian readers. Additionally, it will give Indian authors an opportunity to explore the international market. “Right now, our focus is on acquiring more titles and helping publishers create a revenue stream from their out-of-print titles. We are also working with many foreign publishers to bring their titles to India at a price that is relative to the market here. This would save a lot of time and money that goes into importing these books into India,” he explains.
SansRack’s business model involves acquiring the printing and distribution rights of titles from publishers and distributing them via various sales channels like e-commerce and offline stores. “The only difference is that these books will be listed first and printed only upon order, thereby reducing the risk of printing in bulk and the cost of warehousing.”
With the lofty goal of making every book ever published available to Indian readers at an affordable cost, SansRack intends to expand its catalogue to five million titles by the end of this year. “We have signed up with over 70 publishers and have amassed over one million titles so far. We plan to reach five million titles by the end of the year. We want to serve two sections of the publishing ecosystem: content creators or publishers, and readers. Our job is to make books available to readers at all times,” Narayanan says.