School textbook market is the bread and butter of many publishing businesses. If a book get adopted by a school board or a bunch of schools, then the title has an assured market for many years to come. It is a market that is not easily broken into. It has a cycle of publishing that is very different to trade publishing–it is a specialist market. Most importantly, the content being created needs to be vetted or written by specialists. Yet of late trade publishers, at least in India, have been making attempts to step into the school textbook market by creating books I would like to term as “hybrid books” — books that somewhat fit on the lists of a trade publisher but with the hope of being adopted by the school market.
The three examples of recently published books that I wish to discuss are — Indiapedia: The All India Factfinder, Hachette: School Handbook, and India:A to Z. These are a cross between easy reference books for school students and encyclopaedic in their content, with a bit of trivia thrown in, suitable for young quizzers. Save for India:A to Z written by Veena Seshadri and Vidya Mani, the other two books seem to have been put together by a content creator or a team. For instance Indiapedialists Christmas as one of the top 10 festivals in India ( all though it does not include Christianity as one of the religions in India). The entry on p.187 is:
The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is carried out with great pomp and fervour in India. Christians and non-Christians alike attend Mass in churches and partake of Christmas cake. Midnight Mass at St. Paul’s Church in Kolkata is a favourite spot for tourists to attend at this time. Christmas trees are decorated and hymns are sung–this is perhaps one of the most favourable reminders of the British Rule in India.
It is a rewriting of history. It is not a legacy of British Rule in India. For the record, Christianity has been practised in India for as long as the religion has been around — 2000 years.
Even in India:A to Z the reference on p.43 to the “Fab things freedom fighters did!”, to only focus on the events of 1857, referring to it as a “revolt” or mentioning Veer Savarkar’s book terming the “The Indian War of Independence” needs to be reviewed. Historians prefer to refer to it as “Uprising”, taking into account all perspectives.
This is careless writing and irresponsible publishing. All three books mentioned here need to be vetted by educationists and academics for the information that they include. If these hybrid books get the stamp of approval from specialists, the chances of these books being adopted by schools and selling well, will increase substantially. A point to be considered rather than releasing mediocre books that in all likelihood will sink.
Hachette School Handbook Hachette India, Delhi, 2013. Pb. pp. 250 Rs. 195
Veena Seshadri and Vidya Mani India: A to Z An Alphabetical Tour of Incredible India Puffin Books, New Delhi, 2013. Pb. pp. 160. Rs. 325
Hachette Indiapedia: The All-India Factfinder Hachette India, New Delhi, 2013. Pb. pp. 250. Rs. 175