September 2012 Posts

A response to Sudhanva Deshpande’s article on “fair use”

A response to Sudhanva Deshpande’s article on “fair use”

After uploading on the photocopying case/IPR in Delhi, I received the following email from Sudhanva Deshpande. I am uploading it on my blog with his and the anonymous author’s permission.

JAYA 23 Sept 2012

“Here’s a response I got, from someone who works at a multinational academic publisher.”

* * * * *
Sudhanva Deshpande
—– Forwarded Message —–

1. Publishing companies have no qualms about violating copyright when it serves their interests. Aspiring — but unqualified — authors in positions of influence at Indian universities routinely get published by leading publishing companies. Some of these books are heavily plagiarized from books by other publishers and even without attribution from Wikipedia — which publishers so readily dismiss with contempt– a fact which everyone in the industry chooses to ignore. Publishers publish these manuscripts with minor changes in language to skirt the issue of copyright; this involves re-writing sentences. Copyright violation in spirit, if not in letter. The author, being in a position of influence, guarantees sales of a certain number of copies, usually in the thousands. For the publishing company, such agreements cement a good relationship with the author, enabling access to his/her colleagues who serve on the advisory board which recommends textbooks in that university.

2. These boards are corrupted by the influence of sales managers from publishing companies. It is not uncommon for unpublished books, only in the manuscript stage, to appear in the recommended list of university syllabi. It used to be the case that the syllabus for a course was framed first, and then books matching the syllabus are recommended. These days, the reverse happens — syllabi are framed from the contents of a book by a favoured publisher. What goes in the book is dictated by self-appointed editors at these publishing companies.

3. Publishing companies are concerned with selling their books to the syllabus review committees and not the students. Prices are sometimes kept artificially high for the simple reason that multinational companies do not want to be seen selling their books at the “cheap price-points” of their Indian competitors.

4. Editors of highly technical textbooks often have no subject knowledge at all. It is a miracle that a student gets a usable book after passing through their hands.

5. Contrary to what they may claim, editors do not “value add”. Manuscripts usually fall into two categories. Those written by expert authors, where an editor can do no more than beautify it and prepare it for “production”, an act which could just as easily have been done by the authors themselves. The other kind of book involves heavily-plagiarized work, or manuscripts so badly written, that the editor involved practically has to become the co-author. Such authors scarcely deserve to be published and amount to cheating the students.

6. The “production” of a manuscript by a publishing company takes months, which is totally anachronistic in today’s world — especially for technical manuscripts, where one can produce a beautifully typeset work using LaTeX instantly. This “production”, in fact, is where a publisher incurs a huge chunk of the cost of any project and then proceeds to justify the price-points at which the end product is sold. Notwithstanding the fact that numerous errors are introduced at this stage, all this is justified in the name of “value add”.

7. The authors are milked to the limit and paid peanuts for their hard work. Royalty is never more than 10%; any author who demands more is “greedy”.

8. Perfectly good manuscripts by Indian authors are sometimes rejected if they pertain to topics which have no “sales potential”. Or are deemed to be written at a “higher level” than is suited for the “average Indian student”. This not only does these scholars a disservice, but also forces them to turn to publishers based abroad, who are usually more willing. Thus, Indian students have to either turn to expensive books by foreign authors, or to expensive books by Indian authors published by foreign companies.

9. Publishers assume that students only like to read “syllabus-oriented” books. Only such proposals are accepted — if not, the author is forced to dilute the book’s contents and “simplify” it. This deprives students in India, at least those of us who like to go beyond the syllabus, of quality material.

Academic publishing, as it stands, is a fundamentally unethical business. Nowhere is this more evident than in journal publishing, where the publisher collects money from the author for publishing, gets it peer-reviewed for free, and collects more money from the readers. No qualms.

Publishers are terrified of the potential of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to up-end the whole education ecosystem. And as Clay Shirky says, “Publishing is not a process. Publishing is a button.” Tomorrow is, no doubt, brighter for those of us who believe knowledge should have no gatekeepers and this is something we should fight for.

Crossword Award decides not to give any award to children’s literature this year!

Crossword Award decides not to give any award to children’s literature this year!

(L-R): Ashwin Sanghi, Patrick French, Anita Roy, Gurcharan Das, Sidin Vadukut

The Crossword Book Award judges have decided not to award a children’s book award this year, citing the following reason: “Writing for children demands the best and the freshest of a writer’s imagination, backed by a high degree of editorial skill. The listed books are good reads and tackle a variety of themes, but in the meld of originality, ideas, and narrative skill, they fall short. We looked for empathy rather than discrimination, fun rather than instruction, audacity rather than political correctness, wonder rather than world-weary ennui – and came away disappointed. We didn’t find the quality of timelessness that so distinguishes award-winning material. We have listed five books for honorable mention. There is no award this year.”

Here is the list:

Raja and the giant donut
Mumbai rollercoaster
The mystry of mind net
Mayil will not be quiet
Beyond the blue river


<strong>Mind your words: Who decides what we should read?</strong>

Mind your words: Who decides what we should read?

Mind your words: Who decides what we should read?

The Jaipur Literature Festival 2012 did not slink by unnoticed. It is a literary extravaganza which reaches out to the masses, rather than being reserved for the upper echelons of society or the intelligentsia. Everybody is welcome to mingle and rub shoulders with the glitterati of literature. It is easy to spot Gulzar, along with Tom Stoppard or as this year proved, even Oprah! The one event that overshadowed the entire festival and its rumbles continue to be heard even now, was the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s presence — will he, won’t he come was the question on everyone’s lips. What were the legal repercussions for the four writers—Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil, Hari Kunzro and Ruchir Joshi — who attempted to read out passages from Satanic Verses? When it was finally announced that Rushdie will not attend in person, but will address the gathering via a video conference, it was little consolation. But then that too was scuttled, leaving a fuming Rushdie having to address a television audience later that evening, via a link up with NDTV.

Curiously the ban on Satanic Verses is a customs ban that does not allow the book to be imported into the country. The larger question then left for everyone to tussle with – was this a form of censorship? Are we not at a liberty to read what we like? Do we have the freedom to read what we like? Or shall there be those who sit in judgment upon what we can or should not read? Questions that are not always easy to answer. It has spawned various forms of protests, signing of online petitions to most notably “flash reads” which included reading passages from works on 14 Feb – the day, 23 years ago, when the fatwa against Rushdie was announced. Plus a day in that has in recent times become synonymous with the harassment inflicted upon young lovers by vigilantes, based upon the absurd argument that Valentine’s Day is a Western intrusion upon Indian culture. According to Salil Tripathi, one of the participants of flash reads, it was organized “at different locations in five cities, Bangalore, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi, about a hundred people—readers, writers, artists, engineers, lawyers, professionals, students, and consultants—came with sheets filled with words and ideas that someone somewhere wanted suppressed. We were at Lodhi Gardens, on the bridge overlooking the duck pond, in the shadow of the ruins of another era, where writers who defied the state and those in power often met a ghastly end.”

But bear in mind the reception to a book in different countries. In Germany, more than sixty years after World War II is over, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is a banned text. It is not available in bookstores. If anyone wishes to read it, it can only be accessed by special permission, providing a valid reason, from a library. Unlike in India, where for many years it is a bestseller. It is always amongst the most popular titles in pirated editions, and only recently has begun to be visible in bookstores. It is available in English and other regional languages.
Today, India is the largest democracy in the world, but it is also considered to be a large book market, with a voracious appetite in print and electronic formats and in any language, not just English. Controversies like those surrounding Satanic Verses open larger debates like pertaining to censorship, how far can one go without hurting the religious sentiments of another group, the impact of such an action on institutions and of course being responsible for the consequences of one’s action — is it to be those who are the catalysts of such change or the festival that inadvertently provided a platform for these readings? With the Internet, many of these bans become counter-productive as exemplified by Oscar-nominated director Ashvin Kumar who uploaded his latest film, Inshallah, Kashmir: Living Terror, on 26 Jan 2012, within 24 hours, he struck 50,000 views. In Dec 2011, it was estimated that India is the third largest Internet user population in the world, with over 120 million users. So it is ironical there is such a hullaballo around Satanic Verses being read in public, since the entire text is available online.

(This article was first published in Books & More, April-May 2012, p.58

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an international publishing and literary consultant. She may be contacted at Her twitter handle is @JBhattacharji

DU-Photocopying case (ongoing), Sept 2012

DU-Photocopying case (ongoing), Sept 2012

A few days ago some publishers (OUP, CUP and Taylor and Francis) filed a case in the Delhi High Court against a photocopying unit on the Delhi University campus. It has generated a fierce debate, particularly on how to define “fair use”. Over the next few days I will be posting some links/articles explaining this debate.

To start with, I am reproducing Sudhanva Deshpande’s original article on the debate. It is a perspective and an entry point. A version of this was published in the Hindu ( ) on 19 Sept 2012.

Whose Copy, Whose Right?
Sudhanva Deshpande

Aakar Patel, in his diatribe against the students and faculty members of Delhi University on the photocopy issue (‘Pages Apart’, Sept. 11, makes a number of erroneous assumptions. I address here some of the most important.

1. That students indulge in ‘copyright theft’ by photocopying course material. Not true. Laws are not absolute, and there exist exceptions and limitations to virtually every law. The Indian Copyright Act has two explicit provisions that allow for educational exceptions. Copyright lawyer Lawrence Liang shows that ‘Sec. 52(1)(i) allows for “the reproduction of any work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction” or as a part of questions or answers to questions. Further, Sec. 52(1)(a) allows for a fair dealing with any work (except computer programs) for the purposes of private or personal use, including research.’ Legally, students and teachers are on firm ground. In fact, by claiming huge damages, it is the publishers who are trying to subvert the educational exceptions that are available in law. This is typical of corporations – use shock and awe tactics to illegalize in public perception a perfectly legal practice. All for private profit.

2. That the photocopies being done are always and only from books. Amazingly, Patel does not mention journals even once. Journals, especially in the sciences and law, are often prohibitively expensive. Libraries are being forced to cut down on journal subscriptions. Libraries typically get single copies of journals that they do subscribe to. How is a class of even 50 expected to read from a single copy in the library? And what about books that are simply not available in the market, at whatever price?

3. That it is always entire books that are photocopied. Not true. In most cases, it is only a small part of a particular book that the student is asked to read. Take the M.A. Sociology syllabus from the Delhi School of Economics, where the shop under litigation is located. Students are recommended 544 readings. Of these, not counting journal articles, we have been able to ascertain the prices of 296 books. Patel cites the Indian prices of 13 books, which cost, cumulatively, Rs 9,042 (ave. Rs 695 per book). At that average, 296 books should cost Rs 205,720.

But what do the books cost in fact? Taking the lowest prices (even when the book is not available at that price), the total comes to Rs 577,902. Even after taking out all books that cost over Rs 2,500, the student will have to spend Rs 277,956. Not exactly small change.

Note, too, that the prices of science and law books are significantly higher.

Also, publishers bring out new books in hardcover format, which are significantly more expensive than paperbacks. No publisher expects individual students to buy these, but targets institutions and libraries. Only after a book recovers all its investment is it brought out in a cheaper format, which, for academic books, can take a few years. If the hardcover does not earn enough revenue, a paperback is not issued at all. I know. I am a publisher.

Some of the discussion of this issue (on the blogosphere etc.) has centred around whether there should be a legally permissible limit to how much of a book a student might photocopy. The Indian Copyright Act is clear on this. There is no upper limit prescribed. In other words, legally, in certain circumstances, a student can photocopy an entire book, if it is ‘in the course of instruction’.

The publishers claim that they would withdraw the case if the university agrees to let collecting societies keep track of what is photocopied and pay accordingly, on a per-page basis, which revenue would then be distributed to publishers and authors. This is a model in force in several western countries which have more maximalist copyright regimes than ours. In India, however, as we have seen, the law allows for the educational exception, so what the publishers are demanding is already subverting the law. In addition, there is the question of economic and social realities. An additional payment for reading material (for which the student is already paying photocopy charges) would, contrary to the publishers’ claim, pinch students from economically disadvantaged sections.

The publishers’ claim, if implemented, would result in reducing the ‘gene pool’ from which academics, researchers and the intelligentsia are drawn. So it is not the students who are killing the goose that lays the golden egg, as Mr Patel claims. On the contrary, it is the publishers who are doing so.

4. That the publishers are responsible for ‘commissioning and publishing’ studies. Well, yes. But only after universities pay academics salaries and provide facilities to carry out research in the first place. And at least a part of the university budget comes from students’ fees (not to mention taxpayers’ money). OUP and CUP, ironically, should know this better than anyone else. They would be nothing without the universities whose names they derive so much prestige from.

5. That students are selfish, violent, immature. Well, maybe some are. But then so are many corporations. And their Directors. And lawyers. And CEOs. And Heads of States.

6. That open access publishing is not a realistic option. Not true. In the sciences, there already exist a large number of open access, peer-reviewed journals of the highest standards. And books? Readers might want to download a free pdf of a LeftWord title here: We have also published many of our titles under a Creative Commons license.

Alternatives to copyright and the rule of monopolies exist. Assuming, of course, that we see knowledge as a right of all humankind, not merely as a means for profit-making.

(Sudhanva Deshpande is Managing Editor, LeftWord Books, and an actor and director with Jana Natya Manch, Delhi. He can be reached at

National Youth Readership Survey, NBT, some highlights

National Youth Readership Survey, NBT, some highlights

While reading the (results from the National Youth Readership Survey), National Book Trust, 2010, I came across some interesting points:

1. Of 1.1 billion people in India, only 2 per cent are able to read and write English.
2. 42% of India’s book-buyers are habitual readers; per capita consumption is Rs 80
3. Literate youth=333 m (2009) = 27.4% of total Indian pop or 73% of total youth pop. Signif: Rural (62%; 206.6m) and Urban (126.1m)
4. Pop of literate youth (2001-9) has grown 2.49% higher than the overall pop growth (2.08%)
5. Growth more rapid in Urban (3.15% p.a) than Rural (2.11% p.a.) areas.
6. Hindi is the principal medium of instruction, however as the youth go for higher education the proportion of Hindi as the medium of instruction declines.
7. Approx 25% literate youth read books for pleasure, relaxation and knowledge enhancement; more females read (27%) for leisure than males.
8. Schools are imp for readership development. 59% developed a reading habit in schools. Peer influence is also an important factor.

19 Sept 2012, Jaya Bhattacharji Rose

A wonderful tribute to Mr Kurien, Amul (The Hindu, 10 Sept 2012)

A wonderful tribute to Mr Kurien, Amul (The Hindu, 10 Sept 2012)


September 10, 2012
The man who revolutionised white


UTTERLY BUTTERLY: If India is the largest producer of milk in the world today, it has Verghese Kurien to thank. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
Amul’s success came from a combination of its founder’s socialist vision and his passion for technology

“What do you know about pasteurisation,” an interviewer asked the young man who had applied for a Government of India fellowship for a Masters in Engineering abroad. “Something to do with milk?” was the uncertain reply. The year was 1946. In his biography From Anand: The story of Verghese Kurien, M.V. Kamath recounts the story of how the youngster was selected to do a Masters in dairy engineering by a government committee that was impervious to his pleas that he be allowed to specialise in metallurgy instead.

As it turned out, Michigan State University did not have dairy engineering, and Verghese Kurien was able to do metallurgy and Physics. But when he came back to India in 1948, it was to a small and unknown village in Gujarat called Anand that he was sent, to work out his two-year bond at the Government creamery on a salary of Rs.600 per month. Hating his job, he waited impatiently for his fetters to loosen. That did not happen. What it did was that V. Kurien, by the conjunction of politics, nationalism and professional challenge, decided to stay on. He would transform rural India.

Verghese Kurien, who became a legend in his lifetime for building a cooperative movement that transformed the lives of poor farmers while making India self-reliant in milk production, died on Sunday in Nadiad at the age of 90. He was in hospital, suffering from a series of problems associated with old age.

Born on November 26, 1921 in Kozhikode, Kerala, Verghese Kurien studied at Madras University for a Bachelor of Science in 1940, a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) from Madras University (1943), and was a graduate of the Tata Iron and Steel Company Technical Institute, Jamshedpur (1946). He took a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Distinction) from Michigan State University (1948) and then went for specialised training in dairying at the National Dairy Research Institute, Bangalore. He had 17 honorary doctorates from universities in India and abroad. At the time of his death he was Chancellor, University of Allahabad (since April 17, 2006), Member, Board of Trustees, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Memorial Trust, New Delhi (since 1986), and Member, Advisory Committee, South Asian Network on Fermented Foods — SAN FOODS (since 2004).

He was Founder Chairman of the National Dairy Development Board (1965-1998), the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd, Anand (1983-2006), the National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India Limited (1986-1993), (1995-2000), and (2003-2006), and the Board of Governors, Institute of Rural Management, Anand (1979-2006), amongst several other posts he held in his working life.

Bitter critic

He was the recipient of several distinguished Indian and international awards. To give a short selection of them: nationally, the Padmashri (1965); Padmabhushan (1966); Krishi Ratna (1986); and the Padma Vibhushan (1999). Outside India, it was the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1963); the “Wateler Peace Prize” Award of the Carnegie Foundation for the year 1986; the World Food Prize award for the year 1989; the “International Person of the year” by the World Dairy Expo, Wisconsin, U.S. (1993), the “Ordre du Merite Agricole” by the Government of France (in March 1997); and the Regional Award 2000 from the Asian Productivity Organization, Japan.

Till his death, he was a bitter critic of the policies of liberalisation in India, which he believed opened India to unfair competition from multinational companies. He laid out his objections to liberalisation as early as 1995 in a detailed and wide-ranging interview he gave this correspondent for Frontline.

“With liberalisation and globalisation, it seems to me, India’s national boundaries have ceased to exist,” he told Frontline. “I am sorry, I do not think it is a good thing, because if you have opened up this market under such terms, what it implies is that other countries can put their products into our markets. Are you aware that all those advanced countries subsidise their exports? Subsidies are as high as 65 per cent. Now if you have globalised, and the others are subsidising their exports, to what position have you exposed the Indian dairy industry? You have declared dairy products under OGL (Open General Licence). You have in fact created a situation where our dairy industry can be killed. This is unfair competition.”

Speaking about Amul, the successful cooperative he founded, he explained the rationale behind Operation Flood – the strategy that made India self-reliant in milk production — and why it succeeded. He summarised it as follows: “Over the last 20 years India’s milk production has tripled; it has increased from 20 million tonnes per annum to 60 million tonnes per annum. What is the value of one tonne of milk? At Rs.6 a litre, the value of the increased production of milk is Rs.2,400 crore. An additional Rs.2,400 crore goes yearly into the villages and this has been achieved in 20 years, thanks to Operation Flood I, II and III. The total investment was Rs.2,000 crore, and that was not from the state exchequer. The input-output ratio is staggering. The money also goes to those who own one or two buffaloes — the small farmer, the marginal farmer, the landless labourer. Dairying has become the largest rural employment scheme in this country. And the government has had very little to do with it, even though we are a government institution.”

When presented with the criticism that the cooperative movement could not replicate the successes of the Anand model in other parts of India, Mr. Kurien agreed but was unfazed by it, contesting it soundly. “Is the democratic form of government successful in all parts of India? But the solution to the problems of democracy is more democracy. There can be no democracy in India unless you erect a plurality of democratic structures to underpin democracy, like the village cooperative which is a people’s institution.”

If in 2012, India is the largest producer of milk in the world, contributing six per cent to the national GDP and 26 per cent to the agricultural GDP, it is Verghese Kurien, with his socialist vision and technology-led approach, who made it possible.

He is survived by his wife Molly Kurien, his daughter Nirmala, and grandson, Siddharth.

Bitcoin, digital currency

Bitcoin, digital currency

Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason: Salman Rushdie

Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason: Salman Rushdie

“Roll of Honour”, Amandeep Sandhu, a few comments

“Roll of Honour”, Amandeep Sandhu, a few comments

16 Sept 2012
Earlier in the year Amandeep wrote to me requesting me to read his manuscript. Now that the book has been published with his permission I am sharing some of the comments I made on the draft I read.


First things first. Your novel, Roll of Honour, IMHO is going to break new ground for English-language fiction from India. It is a combination of YA, cross-over, a bildungsroman and a very disturbing account of adolescence. Is it also a part-memoir? If I may say so, you have achieved something that I have only seen in Chinese, Japanese and French literature. I am as yet to see it in Indian fiction. You said you wanted to attempt the grittiness to show, and it does. It is very readable and flows well.

You have worked hard at the research and I suspect, raking up old and buried (at times, painful) memories. It is not easy to write the kind of stuff that you have written. First in the present tense and then in the past continuous, reflecting upon what you did. It is as if you split yourself into two.

I am not sure if you know this, but when victims of any traumatic encounter, especially those of conflict zones have to recount the actual moment of horror, are never able to do so in the first person. It is always in the third person, as if that particular moment of impact is too dreadful to recall. The brain blocks it out and memory softens the blow. Whereas in your case, you have tortured yourself to write as is. Remarkable! Having said this, have you read Howard Zinn and Paul Fussell on conflict, especially WWII. Why I mention it is, you are talking about violence and horror that is very similar to what they have tried to document. Through the eyes of the common man and the inordinate pressures, and circumstances they have to face.

Roll of Honour is a very tough book. Yet it is extraordinary for you having highlighted the very common, everyday occurrence in a boarding school, especially a military school. The pressures of society. The pressures of living in the early 1980s in Punjab. Your novel brought back many memories for me of the 1980s, the violence that we saw and read in the papers, the horror of the 1984 riots, etc etc.

For me, Roll of Honour is a neat bildungsroman. Ever since I read it, it has been swirling in my head. You are doing something that is well documented in literature. It takes at least a generational gap for a major socio-political event to make its mark in literature. It takes time, primarily because immediately after the event, people who have witnessed it, prefer to block it in their minds. A generation later the questions begin to emerge, research develops and oral history begins to be recorded. It is time for 1984. It is time for Punjab.

For me this novel works well as for the YA genre. You have created Appu as a trapped teenager, who is confused by his school, the choices he has to make, the social changes etc. For a teenager, the raging hormones are a nightmare. To top it, the horror of the school, witnessing the crumbling of society as you know it and more importantly, the very foundations on which you have been brought up being challenged – the sacrosanct Golden Temple being stormed; the idea of fighting for the country, but having to experience military school; the dissonance in what is taught to what is expected of you. … (With this book) you are doing something very original.

Publishing Next, 2012, Goa (14-15 Sept)

Publishing Next, 2012, Goa (14-15 Sept)

All those wanting to know about interesting trends/discussions in publishing, get on to Twitter. Use #pubnext to follow the conversations being uploaded in real time by CinnamonTeal Print & Publishing Service, organisers of Publishing Next, Goa.