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Counterview: Urvashi Butalia’s rejoinder to AR Venkatachalapathy on women publishers and editors

Long years ago, when I began working in publishing, it was an almost entirely male world. Women were to be found in some publishing houses, but mainly in administrative and secretarial positions. The bosses were all men – at least in English language publishing in India – and so were the editors. There was something about their anatomy that seemed to qualify them more to work in the business of creating and disseminating knowledge – an activity that is generally governed by the brain, something that lies between the ears (and not the legs) and looks the same no matter what sort of bodily shell it’s placed in.

As women, we – the handful of us who joined the industry at that time and who slowly made our way to becoming editors – knew well we would never rise to the top of our professions. My bosses at the Oxford University Press were concerned that I was a woman: “We’ve never employed a woman in an executive position,” they told me. “They get married and go away.” They made it sound like a crime – one, clearly, that the men never had to answer for.

The Oxford University Press, where I began work, was filled with kind and caring men: Charles Lewis, Santosh Mukherjee, Ravi Dayal, Adil Tyabji, Adrian Bullock, Dipen Mitra. Yet none of them ever had to answer to the kind of questions posed to me. None of them needed to worry about how they would get home at night if they had to work late. None of them needed to be concerned about the safety of seedy hotel rooms when they travelled on business. None of them had to defend themselves against leering printers who wanted to take you out to coffee when all you wanted was to get a book printed. Not surprising then that their paths to the top were smooth, whereas ours were non-existent.

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India’s Book-Buying Habits Say A Lot About The Country’s Economy

By Iain Marlow

Controversial politicians. Celebrity cricket players. Spiritual gurus. India’s publishing industry, like the country’s broader economic story, has a lot to work with.

So it’s perhaps no surprise India’s GDP growth of 7.1 percent — the fastest among major economies — is fueling a boom in book sales. Indian publishing successes, in return, can help provide insights into the country’s growth and consumer confidence. It is a land where the travails of a saucy, soon-to-be-married Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker — in Chetan Bhagat’s fictional One Indian Girl — is a runaway best-seller.

Nielsen estimates the sector is now worth $6.76 billion. Led by educational books, the sector is set to grow at an average compound annual growth rate of 19.3 percent until 2020.  That compares to compounded growth of less than 2 percent for global book publishing over the next five years, according to PwC.   Read more

Source: Bloomberg

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The success of mass market fiction is changing the rules of Indian publishing: Here’s how

By Kanishka Gupta

The last few years have witnessed a deluge of mass market writers in India: Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Datta, Sudeep Nagarkar and more recently, Savi Sharma and Ajay K Pandey. While many people attribute this trend to the unprecedented success of Chetan Bhagat’s debut novel Five Point Someone, others say that it is because of the country’s ever expanding young, aspiring reader base, which has an insatiable appetite for these light, undemanding reads.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this brand of writing has completely changed the different aspects of publishing, be it commissioning, retail or marketing. Editors no longer acquire books in isolation or on the basis of their individual tastes, but in close consultation with a sales team.

“Until Neilsen arrived in India, very few people were aware of the mass market phenomenon that was going on. The communication channels between sales and editorial were also not that great,” Sachin Garg, a bestselling writer and publisher of Grapevine books told me. In fact, distributors only started taking Grapevine seriously once their author Durjoy Datta’s book debuted at number 3 on the Neilsen Charts. ‘The sales figure of a book started being used as a metric for acquisitions and books were acquired for reasons other than the traditional reason of it being a well told story from the editor’s POV,’ says Anish Chandy of Juggernaut Books. Read more

Source: First Post 

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Where Are There So Few Books For The Print-Impaired?

India publishes approximately 90,000 books each year in 24 different languages. We have over 16,000 publishers, and are one of the top nations for English book publishing in the world. Clearly we are a nation which values and fosters a culture of reading and passing on knowledge in different domains ranging from literature, to yoga, language, education, science, fiction and many others. We are also the world’s second most populous nation with an extremely large population with disabilities, including persons with print impairments. However, the total number of books accessible to the print impaired in India is only 19,000, a fraction of what is available yearly to the general public. How is it that despite our prowess in publishing and technology, persons with print impairments in India remain deprived of access to books and other forms of information which are key to an inclusive and fulfilling life?

Before going further into this question, let us understand the term “print disability”. Very broadly, print-impaired persons are those who cannot access printed material due to some form of disability, such as blindness or low vision, dyslexia, autism etc. For these persons to be able to read, the material needs to be converted into some other format such as Braille or accessible electronic formats which can be read using some assistive device like a screen reader or e-book reader, fitted in a laptop, mobile or stand alone device. For assistive technology to be able to read the content, it needs to conform to universal standards such as Unicode for Indic font or EPUB 3.0. Read more

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18 must know facts about the Indian publishing industry

  1. India’s print book market—which grew at a rate of 20.4 percent, compounded annually between 2012 and 2015—is estimated to be worth Rs 26,060 crore.
  2. India is the sixth-largest book market in the world, and currently the second largest for books in English, behind the United States.
  3. Demographic trends support the high growth rate of the industry. The adult literacy level in the country, now at 74 percent, is projected to hit 90 percent in 2020, and this is expected to continue feeding demand for books. Additionally, the government’s expenditure on education and educational resources boosts the demand for books even further
  4. Youth and children constitute a strong readership base. The National Youth Readership Survey 2009 showed that one third of the country’s people are between the ages of 13 and 35, and 25 percent of them—83 million—are book readers. Of these, 53 percent live in rural areas and 58 percent are either at or below matriculation level. Curriculum-based reading and reading to gain professional skills dominates youth readership patterns.
  5. Nielsen’s survey among urban consumers shows that they buy more educational books than trade books. The educational books sector, which forms 70 percent of the book market in India, is the bulwark for the publishing industry.
  6. The National Library in Kolkata, which maintains the Indian National Bibliography, is supposed to receive a copy of every book published in India, as per the Delivery of Books Act of 1954. However, the Act has not been enforced in spirit, and many newer publishers are not even aware of it.
  7. In India, ISBNs are issued free of charge by the Raja Rammohun Roy National Agency for ISBN, hosted at the ministry of human resources development. The agency claims to have issued ISBNs to 19,000 publishers since it was introduced in the country, in 1985.
  8. The process of applying for an ISBN is fraught with challenges for many publishers, especially those based outside Delhi, where the issuing agency is located. Delays of up to three months in receiving ISBNs and difficulties in following up on applications have been common grievances.
  9. There are just a handful of professional literary agents in the country, and almost all of them work for the growing tribe of English-language writers.
  10. Out of the 9,037 publishers identified in the Nielsen report, 8,107 publish books for schools, colleges and higher educational institutions. Only 930 are trade publishers.
  11. As per Nielsen’s report, the schoolbooks market in 2013–14 was worth R18,600 crore, and the market for books for higher education was valued at R5,600 crore in the same period. The trade books market was valued at R1,860 crore.
  12. The National Translation Mission, which is mandated by the government to create “knowledge texts” in translation as well as to build translation tools and conduct translator education programmes, found in a survey conducted in 2009 that there was a mismatch between the demand and availability of translated texts in Indian languages.
  13. 55 percent of trade books sold are in English; of the remaining 45 percent sold in Indian languages, Hindi had the lion’s share, at 35 percent.
  14. Even though books comprise less than 1 percent of the total retail market in India, Nielsen’s data suggests that an extraordinary 21,000-plus retailers sell books here.
  15. Trade publishing in English took off in the country when Penguin Books India was launched, in 1985. Over the following two decades, professionals with industry experience set up local, independent publishing houses. These included Kali for Women (now split into Zubaan and Women Unlimited), Mapin, Tulika Books and Stree-Samya.
  16. Some notable children’s books publishers, such as Katha, Tulika, Tara, and Ekalavya, came up during the 1990s and thereafter. However, the pioneering Children’s Book Trust, which was established in 1957 by the cartoonist Shankar to publish illustrated books for children, as well the NBT, whose mandate includes producing affordable children’s books, remain significant due to their multilingual lists.
  17. Restrictions on foreign direct investment in book publishing were lifted in the year 2000, after which other top multinational publishing companies followed, such as Hachette, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Bloomsbury and Harlequin. Almost all the multinational publishers in India are now fully owned entities of their parent companies.
  18. Government schemes for the procurement of books for school and government libraries are often subject to corruption. By colluding with procurement officials, opportunist private publishers produce books of questionable quality and get them selected for library purchases. Some publishers base their entire business models on such transactions.

Read the full report here.


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India is ‘very hard’ market for booksellers: Chiki Sarkar

One of India’s most influential publishers has told the BBC that it’s “very hard” to make money in the Indian book industry.

Chiki Sarkar is the woman behind the release of some of India’s best-selling books.

This week, she left her job as publisher at Penguin Random House India to pursue new opportunities.

In an interview recorded shortly before her departure, she told Pratiksha Ghildial about the tricky balancing act of making money from books.

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How English ruined Indian Literature: Aatish Taseer

India, when left to its own devices, throws up a very different kind of writer, a man such as Chetan Bhagat, who, though he writes in English about things that are urgent and important — like life on campuses and in call centers — writes books of such poor literary quality that no one outside India can be expected to read them, writes Aatish Taseer in the New York Times

ChetanIn my own world — the world of English writing and publishing in India — the language has wrought neuroses of its own. India, over the past three decades, has produced many excellent writers in English, such as Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh and Arundhati Roy. The problem is that none of these writers can credit India alone for their success; they all came to India via the West, via its publishing deals and prizes. Continue reading

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India: Business of books at Zee Jaipur Literature festival

Vivek Pandit is an author of two books, By Mistake, a philosophical search of a young man for his homeland, and 21 New Beginnings, a set of short stories — like so many others at the Zee Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF). But he doesn’t have hordes of fawning fans asking him to sign a copy, or journalists pursuing him for interviews. Both Pandit’s books were self-published, and he doesn’t have the PR might of a multinational publisher to advertise his book. But he’s hoping to change things with his third manuscript. He came to Jaipur with a few dozen copies of his books in a suitcase, trying to attract the attention of agents and commissioning editors who throng the fest. He’s already managed to get one Koel Mathur interested: “She has already asked for the manuscript and I have mailed it to her.”

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India: Despite pitfalls, publishers bet on translated vernacular Indian literature

Haruki MurakamiWhen asked on a podcast for the New Yorker’s website in 2011 what is untranslatable about Japanese author Haruki Murakami, one of his longtime translators Jay Rubin said, “Pretty much everything. I strongly advise people not to read literature in translation because I know what happens in the process.” If his suggestion were to be heeded, most of us would not be edified by the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Albert Camus, Italo Calvino and Saadat Hasan Manto.

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