The book title output (both absolute and per capita) in each of the Indian languages in 2004 provides some insights into the nature of the publishing industry in each of these languages and how active they are.
The Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) recently published a book titled "60 years of Book Publishing in India 1947-2007 - The story of one of the top six publishing countries in the World." The FIP claims to have compiled reliable figures and estimates the total number of titles published in India in 2004 to be 82,537. But they assume an approximate number of 5,000 titles to include books published in all the minor languages as well as all books on folk literature and religion published in all the major languages, for those titles that don't have ISBN numbers. My own guess is that the actual number of such titles, especially those on folk literature and literature are likely to be far higher than 5,000 - more like 25,000 plus.
The above data is available in Excel format here.
* The figure for English speakers is the number of people claiming to know English as their second language
Source A: 60 years of Book Publishing in India 1947-2007 p12
Source C: 1991 Indian Census
Source E: India 2001 pop = 1,027, 015, 247
Of the absolute number of new books published across Indian languages in 2004, Hindi tops at 26% of the total, followed by English with 23% - the only two languages with double digit percentages. Tamil is next at 9% Bengali and Marathi follow at about 6.5% each and Telugu, Malayalam and Gujarati are each at about 4%. Urdu and Kannada are much lower at 2.5%.
The per capita book title output for each language presents quite a different picture from that of the absolute number of titles.
Since the 2001 census language data have not been released yet ( I wonder why the delay - a question in Parliament or an RTI request may be in order), I've adopted a quick fix by taking the % data for speakers of each language from the 1991 census, and multiplying it by the total population figure from the 2001 census to get a rough estimate of the language speakers circa 2001.
The per capital book title output for the whole of India is about 8 titles per 100,000 population, far lower than what it ought to be when compared to the per capita book title output in the mature publishing markets like UK, USA, France and Germany. Of all the Indian languages, English tops at 23 titles per 100,000 speakers of English in India followed by Tamil at 11. Malayalam (8.7), Marathi (6.9), Bengali (6.3) and Gujarati (6.2) are all higher than Hindi at 5. Kannada (4.8) is higher than Telugu (4.2) and Urdu (3.9). Assamese at 7.7 is much higher than most other languages.
While English publishing is understandably more active than the other languages, Hindi publishing is far less active in terms of book title output than it ought to be given the huge number of Hindi speakers. Tamil and Malayalam are the most active of the Indian languages with the other larger languages (in terms of speakers) like Marathi, Bengali, Telugu, Gujarati and Kannada lagging behind. Despite the number of titles published in Assamese being lower than all other major languages, Assamese publishing seems to be far more active than one would expect given the fewer number of speakers. Sanskrit, Sindhi and Kashmiri have too few speakers compared to the other languages for their per capita output to be comparable.