Karadi Tales Posts

“The Journey Of Indian Publishing” by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose

I recently contributed to How to Get Published in India edited by Meghna Pant. The first half is a detailed handbook by Meghna Pant on how to get published but the second half includes essays by Jeffrey Archer, Twinkle Khanna, Ashwin Sanghi, Namita Gokhale, Arunava Sinha, Ravi Subramanian et al.

Here is the essay I wrote:

****

AS LONG as I can recall I have wanted to be a publisher.  My first ‘publication’ was a short story in a newspaper when I was a child. Over the years I published book reviews and articles on the publishing industry, such as on the Nai Sarak book market in the heart of old Delhi.  These articles were print editions. Back then, owning a computer at home was still a rarity.

In the 1990s, I guest-edited special issues of  The Book Review on children’s and young adult literature at a time when this genre was not even considered a category worth taking note of. Putting together an issue meant using the landline phone preferably during office hours to call publishers/reviewers, or posting letters by snail mail to publishers within India and abroad, hoping some books would arrive in due course. For instance, the first Harry Potter novel came to me via a friend in Chicago who wrote, “Read this. It’s a book about a wizard that is selling very well.” The next couple of volumes were impossible to get, for at least a few months in India. By the fifth volume, Bloomsbury UK sent me a review copy before the release date, for it was not yet available in India. For the seventh volume a simultaneous release had been organised worldwide. I got my copy the same day from Penguin India, as it was released by Bloomsbury in London (at the time Bloomsbury was still being represented by Penguin India). Publication of this series transformed how the children’s literature market was viewed worldwide.

To add variety to these special issues of The Book Review I commissioned stories, translations from Indian regional languages (mostly short stories for children), solicited poems, and received lovely ones such as an original poem by Ruskin Bond. All contributions were written in longhand and sent by snail mail, which I would then transfer on to my mother’s 486 computer using Word Perfect software. These articles were printed on a dot matrix printer, backups were made on floppies, and then sent for production. Soon rumours began of a bunch of bright Stanford students who were launching Google. No one was clear what it meant. Meanwhile, the Indian government launched dial-up Internet (mostly unreliable connectivity); nevertheless, we subscribed, although there were few people to send emails to!

The Daryaganj  Sunday  Bazaar where second-hand books were sold was the place to get treasures and international editions. This was unlike today, where there’s instant gratification via online retail platforms, such as Amazon and Flipkart, fulfilled usually by local offices of multi-national publishing firms. Before 2000, and the digital boom, most of these did not exist as independent firms in India. Apart from Oxford University Press, some publishers had a presence in India via partnerships: TATA McGraw Hill, HarperCollins with Rupa, and Penguin India with Anand Bazaar Patrika.

From the 1980s, independent presses began to be established like Kali for Women, Tulika and KATHA. 1990s onwards, especially in the noughts, many more appeared— Leftword Books, Three Essays, TARA Books, A&A Trust, Karadi Tales, Navayana, Duckbill Books, Yoda Press, Women Unlimited, Zubaan etc. All this while, publishing houses established by families at the time of Independence or a little before, like Rajpal & Sons, Rajkamal Prakashan, Vani Prakashan etc continued to do their good work in Hindi publishing. Government organisations like the National Book Trust (NBT) and the Sahitya Akademi were doing sterling work in making literature available from other regional languages, while encouraging children’s literature. The NBT organised the bi-annual world book fair (WBF) in Delhi every January. The prominent visibility in the international English language markets of regional language writers, such as Tamil writers Perumal Murugan and Salma (published by Kalachuvadu), so evident today, was a rare phenomenon back then.

In 2000, I wrote the first book market report of India for Publisher’s Association UK. Since little data existed then, estimating values and size was challenging. So, I created the report based on innumerable conversations with industry veterans and some confidential documents. For years thereafter data from the report was being quoted, as little information on this growing market existed. (Now, of course, with Nielsen Book Scan mapping Indian publishing regularly, we know exact figures, such as: the industry is worth approximately $6 billion.) I was also relatively ‘new’ to publishing having recently joined feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia’s Zubaan. It was an exciting time to be in publishing. Email had arrived. Internet connectivity had sped up processes of communication and production. It was possible to reach out to readers and new markets with regular e-newsletters. Yet, print formats still ruled.

By now multinational publishing houses such as Penguin Random House India, Scholastic India, Pan Macmillan, HarperCollins  India, Hachette India, Simon & Schuster India had opened offices in India. These included academic firms like Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Springer, and Pearson too. E-books took a little longer to arrive but they did. Increasingly digital bundles of journal subscriptions began to be sold to institutions by academic publishers, with digital formats favoured over print editions.

Today, easy access to the Internet has exploded the ways of publishing. The Indian publishing industry is thriving with self-publishing estimated to be approximately 35% of all business. Genres such as translations, women’s writing and children’s literature, that were barely considered earlier, are now strong focus areas for publishers. Regional languages are vibrant markets and cross-pollination of translations is actively encouraged. Literary festivals and book launches are thriving. Literary agents have become staple features of the landscape. Book fairs in schools are regular features of school calendars. Titles released worldwide are simultaneously available in India. Online opportunities have made books available in 2 and 3-tier towns of India, which lack physical bookstores. These conveniences are helping bolster readership and fostering a core book market. Now the World Book Fair is held annually and has morphed into a trade fair, frequented by international delegations, with many constructive business transactions happening on the sidelines. In February 2018 the International Publishers Association Congress was held in India after a gap of 25 years! No wonder India is considered the third largest English language book market of the world! With many regional language markets, India consists of diverse markets within a market. It is set to grow. This hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2017, Livres Canada Books commissioned me to write a report on the Indian book market and the opportunities available for Canadian publishers. This is despite the fact that countries like Canada, whose literature consists mostly of books from France and New York, are typically least interested in other markets.

As an independent publishing consultant I often write on literature and the business of publishing on my blog … an opportunity that was unthinkable before the Internet boom. At the time of writing the visitor counter on my blog had crossed 5.5 million. The future of publishing is exciting particularly with neural computing transforming the translation landscape and making literature from different cultures rapidly available. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being experimented with to create short stories. Technological advancements such as print-on-demand are reducing warehousing costs, augmented reality  is adding a magical element to traditional forms of storytelling, smartphones with processing chips of 8GB RAM and storage capacities of 256GB seamlessly synchronised with emails and online cloud storage are adding to the heady mix of publishing. Content consumption is happening on electronic devices AND print. E-readers like Kindle are a new form of mechanised process, which are democratizing the publishing process in a manner seen first with Gutenberg and hand presses, and later with the Industrial Revolution and its steam operated printing presses. 

The future of publishing is crazily unpredictable and incredibly exciting! 

3 Feb 2019

“Penguin on Wheels: Walking BookFairs and Penguin Books India”

WBF 2( I wrote an article for the amazing literary website Bookwitty.com on “Penguin on Wheels”. An initiative of Walking BookFairs and Penguin Books India. It was published on 28 June 2016. Here is the original url: https://www.bookwitty.com/text/penguin-on-wheels-walking-bookfairs-and-penguin-b/57725752acd0d076db037bf7 . I am also c&p the text below. ) 

Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation, and new people, new readers, need to be brought into the conversation too.”

     -Neil Gaiman, Introduction, The View from the Cheap Seats ( 2016)

On the 16th of May 2016, Penguin Random House India circulated a press release about Penguin Books India’s one-year collaboration with Walking BookFairs (WBF) to launch “Penguin on Wheels”, a bookmobile that will travel through the eastern Indian state of Odisha promoting reading and writing.

This is not the first time Walking BookFairs has collaborated with a publishing house to promote reading. Their earlier “Read More, India” campaign saw Walking BookFairs supported by HarperCollins India, Pan MacMillan India, and Parragon Books India. Apart from these three publishers, WBF stocked books from various other publishers, including Tara Books, Speaking Tiger Books, Penguin, Duckbill, Karadi Tales, and Scholastic. “We got books delivered by our publishers on the road wherever we were displaying books.”

The concept of bookmobiles is not unusual in India, for some decades the state-funded publishing firm, National Book Trust, has maintained its own book vans. Yet it is the duo of Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Rautaray that has captured the public imagination.

Walking BookFairs was established two years ago while Satabdi Mishra was on a break from her job and Akshaya WBF 6Rautaray quit his publishing job to set up an independent “simple bookstore” in Bhubaneshwar. The shop, which they prefer to think of as a “book shack”, runs on solar power. It is a simple space with the bare necessities and a garden. They allow readers to browse through the bookshelves, offering a 20-30% discount on every purchase throughout the year.

WBF also doubles as a free library. They introduced the bookmobile in 2014, as part of an outreach programme that would see them travelling to promote reading in the state. Speaking to me by email, Satabdi said,

“There are no bookshops or libraries in many parts of India. There are thousands of people who have no access to books. We started WBF in 2014 because we wanted to take books to more people everywhere. We have been travelling inside our home state Odisha for the last two years with books. We found that most people do not consider reading books beyond textbooks important in India. We wanted people to understand that reading story books is more important than reading textbooks. We wanted to reach out to more people with books. We also wanted to inspire and encourage more people across the country to read books and come together to open more community libraries and bookshops.”

India is well known for stressing the importance of reading for academic purposes rather than reading for pleasure. In a country of 1.3 billion people, where 40% are below the age of 25 years old, and the publishing industry is estimated to be of $2.2 billion, there is potential for growth. Indeed,there has been healthy growth across genres, quite unlike most book markets in the world.

The WBF team has been keen to promote reading since it is an empowering activity. They began in the tribal district of Koraput, Odisha, where they carried books in backpacks and walked around villages. They displayed books in public spaces like bus stops and railways stations or spreading them out on pavements or under trees, whatever was convenient and accessible. “That works because people in smaller towns feel intimidated by big shops,” they say.

Apart from public book displays, they also visit schools, colleges, offices, educational institutions, and residential neighbourhoods. They soon discovered that children and adults were not familiar with books. Bookstores too seem only to be found in urban and semi-urban areas and are lacking in rural areas, but once easy access to books is created there is a demand. As Neil Gaiman says in the essay “Four Bookshops”, these bookshops “made me who I am”, but the travelling bookshop that came to his day boarding school was “the best, the most wonderful, the most magical because it was the most insubstantial”. (The View from the Cheap Seats)

Speaking again via email, Satabdi says that they’ve found, “Children’s books are always the most sought after. We have many interesting children’s storybooks and picture books with us. We found that in many places, not just children but also adults and young people enthusiastically pick up children’s books, browse through and read them. Beyond a couple of urban centres in India, big cities, there are no bookshops. Most bookshops that one comes across are shops selling textbooks, guide books or essay books. Many people were actually looking at real books for the first time at WBF.”

In India the year-on-year growth rate for children’s literature is estimated to be 100%. Satabdi Mishra and Akshaya Rautaray stock 90% fiction. Rautaray says, “We believe in stories. I think, if you need to understand the world around you, if you need to understand science and history and sociology, you need to understand stories. I believe in a good book, a good story.”

The categories include literary fiction, classics, non-fiction, biographies, books on poetry, cinema, politics, history, economics, art visual imagery, young adult, picture books, children’s books, and regional literature from Odia and Hindi. The emphasis is on diversity, but they do not necessarily stock bestsellers or popular books like romance, textbooks, or academic books. That said, the Penguin on Wheels programme will dovetail beautifully with, “Read with Ravinder” another of the publisher’s reading promotion campaigns, spearheaded by successful commercial fiction author Ravinder Singh.

In December 2015, Satabdi and Akshay launched their “Read More, India” campaign (#ReadMoreIndia), which saw them take their custom-built book van, loaded with more than 4000 books across India. They covered 10,000kms, 20 states, in three months (from 15th Dec 2015 to 8th March 2016).

Over the course of the journey, they sold forty books a day, met thousands of people, and had a number of interesting experiences. One anecdote that gives an insight into the passion and trust that the young couple displays is of that of an elderly gentleman in Besant Road Beach road, Chennai. The older man was out for his daily jog and stopped to look at the books. He wanted to buy some books, but had left his wallet behind.

“We asked him to take the books and pay us later via cheque or bank transfer. He seemed surprised that we were letting him take the books without paying. He took the books and sent the money later with his driver. We want people to read more books. And if people cannot buy books, we want them to read books for free for as long as they want. People pay us in cash, in kind, sometimes they take books pay later, pay through credit/debit cards.”

The Penguin on Wheels campaign was launched because Penguin Books India had been following WBF’s activities and reached out to them. Earlier, they had collaborated for an author event in Odisha, but this new move is a focussed effort that will see the bookmobile travel within Odisha.

The books are curated by Akshay as Penguin Books India said graciously that “they [WBF] know best what their readers like more”. It will consist of approximately 1000 titles from the Penguin Random House stable. The collection will have books by celebrated authors, including Jhumpa Lahiri, John Green, Orhan Pamuk, Amitav Ghosh, Devdutt Pattanaik, Salman Rushdie, Ravinder Singh, Twinkle Khanna, Hussain Zaidi, Khushwant Singh, Roald Dahl, Ruskin Bond, and Emraan Hashmi.

Contests and author interactions will also be organised with the support or Penguin Random House. It will start with Ravinder Singh’s visit to Bhubaneshwar for the promotion of his newly launched book, Love that Feels Right. Satabdi Mishra adds, “We are happy to partner with PRH through the WBF ‘Penguin on Wheels’ that will spread the joy of reading around.”

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose

28 June 2016

Of comic culture and conventions in India

WCI logoAn eleven-year-old girl had a birthday coming up. While swinging in the school Scott McCloudplayground she blurted out to me, “I do not want a birthday party. I do not want any gifts. When you are a child, you can ask for many things. All I want is a book on how to draw cartoons.” Her mother who was flummoxed. There were only two options I could think of at such a short notice: 1. Recommend Scott McCloud’s classic Understanding Comics but it would not be possible to get it in time for her birthday OR 2. Contact Sharad Sharma of World Comics and seek his advice. I did the latter. Sure enough he did have a slim manual that had been produced in-house on how to create cartoons.

Sharad Sharma should know. After all  World Comics Network ( http://www.worldcomicsindia.com/ ) promotes the use of grassroots comics as a medium of self-expression. Since it began in the mid-nineties, Sharad Sharma has conducted over a 1000 workshops in remote areas and trained over 30,000 people. He has also begun a Comics for All: A World Comics Network Bulletin. The latest issue that I read, Comics in Education, consists of comics made by people around the world discussing education. Some of the topics covered are on identity, cultural and linguistic diversity, displacement, sexuality, humanity, mental health, communalism, adult literacy, and rights. The newspaper is multi-lingual but the synopsis of comics are available in English. The cover has snippets of comics and speech bubbles created by government school teachers in Uttar Pradesh, India. Sharad Sharma and his colleagues trained 70 teachers in sequential art and they in turn trained another 700 teachers. 

 
****
CCI logoMeanwhile the hugely popular Comic Con India will have its first event of the year in Bangalore ( 3-5 April 2015). Links are available at: http://www.comicconindia.com/ and http://www.comicconbangalore.com/ . It promises to be quite an extravaganza with celebrities such as Natalia Tena ( from Game of Thrones and Harry Potter fame), Rana Daggubati of Bahubali and comic book artists such as Greg Cappullo ( X-Force, Quasar, Spawn and Batman), Mark Millar ( Wolverine) and Paul Azaceta ( Graveyeard Empires) participating via Skype. (In the past, storytellers such as Neil Gaiman Mark Millarhave participated in Comic Con India  via Skype too.  The picture in this blog is of noted Neil Gaiman in conversation with Sam Arni, Comic Con India, 2014author, Sam Arni in conversation with Neil Gaiman. )
 
This year, Comic Con has announced a list of awards. This is the fourth year of the awards in India. The nominees for the fourth edition are: 
 
Best Graphic Novel
Best Graphic Novel 
World War One
Rumi
Sholay
Simian
Nirmala and Normala
Best Pencilller/Inker/Penciller-Inker Team
Gowra Hari Perla, KAKAA Fableri
Abhijeet Kini, Holy Hell, Meta Desi Vol. 2
Zoheb Momin, Item Dhamaka
Harsho Mohan, Hyderabad: A Graphic Novel
Harsho Mohan, Aghrori 11
Lalit Kumar Sharma and Jagdish Kumar, World War One
Sachin Nagar, Kaurava Empire Vol. 1
Sachin Nagar, Kaurava Empire Vol. 2
Harsho Mohan, Chakrapurer Chakkare
Sabu Sarasan, Ayodhya Kand
Zoheb Akbar and Arijit Dutta Chowdhury, Jatayu and Nandi (Divine Beings)
 
Best Colourist
Sanman Mohita, Futile, Blind Spot
Vipul Bhandari, Cross Hair, Blind Spot
R. Kamath and Prabhu, Item Dhamaka
Neeraj Menon, Hyderabad: A Graphic Novel
Prasad Patnaik, Aghori 11
Sachin Nagar, Kaurava Empire Vol. 1
Sachin Nagar, Kaurava Empire Vol. 2
Vijay Sharma and Pradeep Sherawat, World War One
B. Meenakshi and Pragati Agrawal, Space Doughtnut, Tinkle 276
 
Best Cover
Abhijeet Kini, Ground Zero #2
Sumit Kumar, Parshu Warriors
Sumit Kumar, Devi Chaudhrani
Mukesh Singh, Ravanayan Finale Part 2
Rahil Mohsin, Rumi, Sufi Comics
Priya Kurien, Bookasura
fox and crow posterCulpeo S. Fox, The Fox and the Crow 
 
Best Writer
Alan Cowsill, World War One
Rajani Thindiath, Dreams: My World in My Head, Tinkle Holiday Special 41
Lewis Helfland, They Changed the World
 
Best Continuing Graphic Series
Chiyo, Tinkle Digest
Ravanayan, Holy Cow
Beast Legion
Dental Diaries, Tinkle 
 
Best Illustrated Children’s Book
Tinkle Digest 276, Tinkle
Pashu, Puffin
The Fox and the Crow, Karadi Tales
Malgudi School Days, Puffin
 
Best Children’s Writer
Sean D’Mello, Tantri the Mantri: The Dream Team, Tinkle Tall Tales 4
Ruskin Bond, With Love from the Hills
Arundhati Venkatesh, Bookasura
Devdutt Pattnaik, Pashu
Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan, Ayodhya Kand
 
Best Publication for Children
Tinkle Holiday Special 41
Tinkle Digest 273
CN Remix, Pepper Script
Bookasura, Scholastic
Ayodhya Kand, ACK
 
Lifetime Achievement Award
Aabid SurtiAabid Surti
 
Nirmala and NormalaOf these I have only read Nirmala & Normala ( Penguin), The Fox and the Crow ( Karadi Tales), Pashu ( Puffin India) and World War One ( Campfire). Every one of these book is distinctive in style, plot and genre. The jury is not going to have an easy time picking the winner in each category. The only element common to the diverse books nominated are they have the potential of reaching out to an international audience, even if they have originated in India. Maybe this is keeping in step with the spirit of Comic Con India in going global. On 3 September 2014, a press release issued stating, “Comic Con India (CCI) today announced a joint venture with Reed Exhibitions; part of the FTSE listed Reed Elsevier Group, to grow the pop culture space in India and bring world class events to Indian fans. The Comic Con India team will work closely with the ‘ReedPOP’ division of Reed Exhibitions, the largest producer of pop culture events in the world. With this JV in place, CCI enters the burgeoning ReedPOP portfolio of pop culture events which includes New York Comic Con, PAX, the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, Oz Comic-Con, Singapore Toy, Gaming & Comics Convention and Star Wars Celebration among many others.” ( http://www.reedexpo.com/de/Pressemitteilungen/2014-Press-Releases/Comic-Con-India–Reed-Exhibitions-Enter-Joint-Venture-to-Produce-Experiential-Pop-Culture-Events-for-the-Burgeoning-Indian-Market/  )
The culture of comics, including have specialised standalone bookstores, having a community of comic connoisseurs, focused conventions such as a Comic Con where artists, comic legends, actors, fans etc can mingle and meet are at an advanced stage of evolution in mature markets such as USA and Europe. This experience is still at its infancy in India. So having Comic Con India spread across four cities– Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai — is a good beginning to popularise this particular genre. Having said that, importing a tried and tested model of a popular culture convention into India lock, stock and barrel without tweaking it may result in a distancing from the very market the format is trying to make an impact in. Only time will tell!
Meanwhile as a response to Comic Con India, there are already attempts by some Indian comic artists to come together to launch an alternative platform. At first many of these artists and illustrators were hopeful that Comic Con India would fulfill the crying need to create a platform where professionals from this creative sector met and discussed their art. Unfortunately many feel that this event has” turned out to create a market for western comics rather than promoting the Indian comics and artists”. So they formed COMIX. According to Sharad Sharma, one of the promoters of this idea, “the idea is to have a 2-3 days meet/seminar/workshop for a limited 100-150 artists, illustrators, media critic, publishers etc). Comix is an amalgamation of all visual storytelling art forms under one platform, comics, illustration, and cartoons.  It is a unique attempt to form a platform which brings people connected to line art under one creative roof. …Comix will construct a forum to discuss creator rights and ways to safeguard them. It will also talk about the limitations and pressures, such as, censorship that creators face. Making comics more inclusive, multilingual and multi cultural, Comix is all for crafting an equal opportunity environment.”
Here is hoping that future editions of Comic Con India, COMIX and any future grouping that may emerge ultimately work together in strengthening the comic culture in India. Maybe existing platform could only be made more robust and relevant to the local audience, market and readers by bringing together diverse voices under one roof much as in the world of book publishing — the World Book Fair organised by the National Book Trust brings together a wonderful and wide variety of publishers and opinions.
Postscript: As I was about to upload this article on my blog, I received an email from Comic Con India saying: “We regret to announce that artist Paul Azaceta has had to cancel his visit to the Bangalore Comic Con. He had been looking forward to coming down to India but due to an urgent personal reason he had to cancel his trip. He sends his best wishes to all the fans and is looking to forward to attending the show in future.”
2 April 2015 
Jumpstart, “Speaking in Tongues”, 29-30 Aug 2013, New Delhi

Jumpstart, “Speaking in Tongues”, 29-30 Aug 2013, New Delhi

Logo

Jumpstart is an annual platform provided in India by the German Book Office (GBO) that is targeted specifically at professionals within the children’s book industry, bringing together authors, publishers, illustrators, designers, booksellers and retailers, teachers and librarians. It began in 2009 with a small workshop for professionals. But over the years it has blossomed into a two-day event that is clearly demarcated by open sessions that include panel discussions and workshops/master classes. Each event revolves around a theme that is encapsulated well in three words — “Join the Dots” (2010); “Out of the Box” ( 2011); “Off the Page” (2012) and this year it is “Speaking in Tongues”. The event is scheduled to be held on 29-30 August 2013, the India International Centre, New Delhi. Since last year the Book Souk, matchmaking between publishers and authors, has become a key aspect of the festival too. Key publishers such as Scholastic India, National Book Trust, HarperCollins, Hachette, Young Zubaan, Tulika, Tara, Karadi Tales, Pratham, Eklavya and others have participated in past Jumpstart festivals with direct, positive outcomes. For instance Pratham Books has recently acquired the publishing rights to five books by the French artist Herve Tullet who participated in 2012.

Herve Tullet, signing a book for my daughter, Sarah Rose. Aug 2012

According to Prashasti Rastogi, Director, German Book Office, Delhi “This year we will focus on language. The festival is organised by the German Book Office New and Frankfurt Academy with support from the Federal Foreign Office, Germany. Our partners are Pratham Books as are our Knowledge Partners along with India International Centre and CMYK Book Store. Pratham Books is partnering for a session with language teachers and librarians.”gbo-white

The focus on publishing children’s literature in different languages, the challenges and the thrill of doing so are what are to be discussed at the end of August. One of the panel discussions during the open session will be “Translation is tricky. Dialogue is difficult.” Some of the questions being raised are “How can we know that a book that works in one language will work in another? Which stories travel? Which ones ‘stick’? Why are there so few children’s books translated from one Indian language to another? Are illustrations just as culture-bound as words? ” The other Open Sessions that sound fascinating are “Art as language, designer as author” where award-winning illustrators Julia Kaergel, Emily Gravett will be co-panelists with publisher Arundhati Deosthali and Dorling Kindersley Design Director Stuart Jackman; “What is your bhasha? What is your language?” A workshop for teachers and librarians where panel of speakers who have experiences to share about the teaching and learning of different languages and its impact on learning as a whole. Authors will share experiences on why they choose to write in a particular language and their own experiments with it. To the right is a photograph that I took last year from the open session when Herve Tullet was on stage. 20120823_104202

Such an event is important given that of 1.1 billion people in India, only 2 per cent are able to read and write English. The number of young people below the age of thirty is 550 million who are not only literate in English, but prefer to communicate in the language . The per capita number of book titles published in India is around 8 per 1,00,000 population. This number is much lower in comparison to those of the countries like the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, and Germany. According to Rubin D’Cruz, Asst Editor, Malayalam, NBT, in terms of languages, the per capita number of titles published per 1,00,000 persons is 6.3 in Bengali, 6.2 in Gujarati, 5 in Hindi, 4.8 in Kannada, 4.2 in Telugu, 3.9 in Urdu, and 7.7 in Assamese (the highest). The publishing industry in Tamil and Malayalam are extremely active and although the Assamese speaking population is relatively low, the publishing industry in Assamese is a lot more active than it is in Marathi, Bengali, Telugu, Gujarati or Kannada. Some of the statistics from 2012 are:

• Hindi (422 million)
• Bangla (83 million)
• Telugu (74 million)
• Marathi (74 million)
• Tamil (60 million)
• Urdu (51 million)
• Gujarati (46 million)
• Kannada (38 million)
• Malayalam (33 million)
• Oriya (33 million)
• Punjabi (29 million)
• Assamiya (13 million)

From the National Youth Readership Survey, National Book Trust, 2010:
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.

Actually publishing in India is exciting. As long as you understand the peculiarities of India like the multi-lingual character of the territory, the reverence Indian readers have for the written word. There exists a thriving middle class; increasing amounts of disposable income coupled with a disposition to read for pleasure rather than to clear an examination (a noticeable shift in recent years). Earlier the inclination was to buy books for children, but slowly between the ages of 8+ till graduation from university the casual reader disappeared, so there were no books available for this segment too. Today there is still a considerable vacuum in this age-group, but the market is slowly being transformed as is evident by the appearance of at least three new imprints for young adults in the past year – Inked (Penguin India), Red Turtle (Rupa Publications) and Scholastic Nova (Scholastic India).

As the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, also patron of Sahitya Akademi, said in a speech he delivered extempore in 1962. “…to think that a language is crushed or suppressed by another language, is not quite correct. It is enriched by another language. So also our languages will be enriched the more they get into touch with each other … .” (p.319-320 Best of Indian Literature 1957-2007, Vol 1 Book 1, Sahitya Akademi. Eds, Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee and A. J. Thomas.)

If the previous editions of Jumpstart are anything to go by, Jumpstart 2013 sounds very promising. I am definitely going to attend this year too!

Jumpstart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpK_38mScEg
Website and registeration: http://www.jumpstartfest.com/home

18 Aug 2013

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an international publishing consultant. She has a monthly column on the business of publishing called “PubSpeak” in BusinessWorld online. 

Twitter: @JBhattacharji