Publishing Posts

“The Communist Manifesto” and its publishing history

While browsing through the fine collection of titles of Penguin Little Black Classics I was interested to note that title 20 was The Communist Manifesto ( 1948). Of the entire collection which is a magnificent sweep of literature through the ages and different nations it is curious to see the manifesto included. It was probably included for its impact globally as it is amongst the most widely read and disseminated texts worldwide even a 170 years after it was first published. In fact Leftword Books published a collection of essays on the manifesto called A World To Win  (1999). One of the essays is on the publishing history of the manifesto in India ( available at this link  for free download with the publisher’s permission). It is a fascinating account of how the manifesto was first published in British India. The first Indian translator of the Manifesto had an interesting career. Soumyendranath was the grand nephew of Rabindranath Tagore. It is fitting that the Manifesto got published first in Bengali, Urdu, Marathi, and Tamil, as it is in the centres where these languages predominate that the Communist movement first struck roots. The early Communist groups were based in Calcutta, Bombay, Lahore and Madras. Later it was translated into Malayalam, Gujarati, Oriya, Hindi and Punjabi. In the fifties and later, the Manifesto was published regularly in different Indian languages by Progress Publishers, Moscow.

 

No wonder Penguin Random House included The Communist Manifesto in its Little Black Classics series.

27 February 2017 

 

 

An Interview with Shandana Minhas of the New, Karachi-based Mongrel Books

( My interview with Shandana Minhas was published on the literary website, Bookwitty. )  

Award-winning writer Shandana Minhas and her husband, journalist and playwright Imran Yusuf recently founded Mongrel Books, a small press based in Karachi. Their first title, The Mongrel Book of Voices, Volume 1, Breakups was published in January 2017. It consists of different forms around the theme of breakups, very broadly interpreted, with work by 21 writers from 9 countries. It’s available in bookstores across Pakistan, and there is a Kindle edition too. Three more titles are to be published later this year.

Shandana Minhas’s first novel, Tunnel Vision, was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the second, Survival Tips for Lunatics, won the Karachi Literature Festival Fiction Prize. Daddy’s Boy is her third novel. She has also written for stage, screen, Op-Ed pages, and is an honorary fellow of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Her short fiction has appeared in The Indian Quarterly and Griffith Review. Imran Yusuf’s play Stumped won the first NAPA playwriting award in Pakistan and was staged in Delhi and Kolkata as well. He has also had readings in theatres in London.

An Interview with Shandana Minhas of the New, Karachi-based Mongrel Books - Image 1

Following is an interview with Shandana Minhas:

Why did you decide to found Mongrel Books? How did you choose the name?

We thought shelves in Pakistan had room for, and need of, books that might not otherwise make it to the market. And books that are affordable too. For instance, I am currently reading Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission, which Imran bought from the local chain bookstore for Rs 2095. Which means that was the only book we could buy that month. Even second hand books in ‘old book stores’ now cost between 250-650 rupees. That’s the price range we would like to stay within.

I have always called myself a mongrel, in terms of being a little bit of this and a little bit of that. My father is Muslim, my mother is Christian and I’m not even going to start on the ethnic mix. We also had a lot of mongrels around the house when we were growing up, in Karachi, we’d spend all day on the streets and bring them home with us. When we were deciding on a name it was the first choice for us. There were others though. What made up my mind to stick with Mongrel was somebody I was brainstorming with telling me I shouldn’t call it Mongrel because a lot of Pakistanis didn’t like dogs and I would alienate potential customers. I heard a lot of that when I was a kid too, of course, when there were so many dogs around. ‘The angels won’t come to your house’ or ‘You can’t pray with them around’. I still say ‘Excellent!’ Seriously, the term reminds us of a kinder time, of a less homogenous or monolithic culture.

What is its focus? What are your first books about?

Mongrel Books’ focus in fiction is good story telling, and in non-fiction work that challenges or enriches contemporary ways of looking and seeing.

Will you be publishing only in English? Or in translation as well?

We will publish original work in English as well as translations into English. Pakistan itself has a vast reservoir of stories in Sindhi, Punjabi, Hindko, Seraiki and other languages, and we hope to build relationships with translators to bring some of those to people who might not otherwise know them.

What are the new projects you are working on?

We are set to publish a comedy of errors set in space, a first novel from talented Pakistani sci-fi writer Sidra F. Sheikh. And a non-fiction title from journalist Kamal Siddiqi, The Other Pakistanis, which bears anecdotal witness to the lives of non-Muslims here. Then there is another first novel about corporate life in Karachi from a highly original, unsettling writer who prefers to remain mysterious till the pages – and the bodies –cool. For next year, I’m collaborating with gifted illustrator Aziza Ahmad on a collection of graphic short stories, In Laws from Space and other tales of Domestic Woe, there is a novel and a short story collection from the reading pile I’ve got my beady eyes on, and fiction that children here can actually relate to as well. And of course we plan to do the second volume of The Mongrel Book of Voices.

Does your having previously published fiction in India have anything to do with launching a publishing house in Pakistan?

Peripherally, yes. Indian publishing is excellent; skilled, curious, open and vast. That vastness…there is a fine line between being embraced and being swallowed. Apart from a respite from the strangeness of being intellectually intimate with somebody you will never meet – your editor, your publisher, your agent, there is a practicality to local publishing for local writers as well. Distance, visa regimes, arbitration options and banking laws are not friends to Pakistani writers being published across the border. Even something as simple as receiving your royalties can become a Kafkaesque nightmare. For example, I still haven’t received a payment I was due in 2014.

What is the Pakistani readership like? Is there sufficient book hunger for local books in English?

All I can offer you is what has been offered to me, in spoken words. There is no centralized data collection. The circulation of Urdu digests featuring a steady diet of misogynistic moralizing to upwardly mobile women is in the hundreds of thousands. The number of people who go to the Karachi International Book fair – where sales actually happen – has climbed every year and might now be half a million, and though a lot of stalls there sell what might politely be dubbed literature of a religious persuasion, children’s books do well too, as do cookbooks – ring binding and all – and cheap editions of novels considered to be classics. Cookbooks, pulp piety, platonic romances, children’s books, nostalgia…it seems, then, that Pakistanis are hungry readers but they just might not have the most balanced diet.

…it seems, then, that Pakistanis are hungry readers but they just might not have the most balanced diet.

But figures are much lower for English titles. In chain bookstores, state-of-the-nation non-fiction sells the most. One bookseller tells me English language fiction only has to sell five hundred copies to be considered a bestseller. An internationally visible title from conglomerate publishing will have no trouble getting pre-orders. Other figures I have been given for what constitutes a bestseller in the English language in Pakistan are eight hundred and fifty and three thousand. Pricing does little to diminish the perception that English is just the language for the narcissistic preoccupations of a parasitic elite rather than, say, the language of a minority whose holy book might be the King James Bible. The more upmarket demographic happily invests thousands in the latest coffee table exceptionalism – Our ruins! Our textiles! Our jewellery! Our truck art! Our haemorrhoids!

So far, most books were routed through India but will having a local publishing program make a difference to the price points?

Absolutely. And that might have all kinds of interesting knock on effects. Like most other places in the world, here too there is an increasing gap between the haves and the have nots. If we persist in the perpetuation of a world where our children can’t eat, wear or drive the same things, or go to the same schools, maybe they can at least read the same books?

If we persist in the perpetuation of a world where our children can’t eat, wear or drive the same things, or go to the same schools, maybe they can at least read the same books?

 


What are your plans for the future?

The plan for the immediate future is financial survival, the acquisition of knowledge about the nuts and bolts of publishing, and Jedi level time management. It would be premature for us to project further than that.

Today in global publishing there is stress on ensuring free speech and it is not muzzled in any way. What are the pros and cons of publishing in Pakistan?

I note with sadness that the second question would not be prefaced by the first if Mongrel Books was, say, an Estonian press. But there are real dangers, and there is real loss. This makes the need for stories greater. Human beings, as far better writers than me have noted recently, think in stories, learn how to live and how to love from stories, which is why the control of storytelling seems to be a matter of such concern to fundamentalists. So it is a bittersweet truth that, as a pro, we know that what we do here matters.

The cons of publishing in Pakistan are the cons of running a small business in any developing economy. Our most pressing concerns are childcare for the working mother, sourcing quality paper, shoddy printing jobs, the ethics of unregulated labor practices in the binding industry, or that big academic publishers snap up and hoard what paper does come in its warehouses, uninterrupted electricity supply, and the bank manager having no internet access when we need to make international payments. So to temper any impulse to simply label us as yet another example of ‘defying the Taliban’ – something we see being used to market everything from T-shirts to bad filmmaking – please note that the only thing we are currently defying is common sense.

Will you be publishing in traditional print format or embracing ebooks and digital features such as audio, augmented reality etc.?

We will be publishing in traditional print format as well as e-books. As for augmenting reality, I will simply say that I still do not own or know how to use a smartphone. (But my partner does.)

Pakistani authors writing in English are very prominent internationally. Why do you think no other publishing house apart from OUP [Oxford University Press] has set roots locally to encourage literary talent?

OUP in Pakistan is primarily an academic publisher looking to engineer its own access to the cash cow of state curriculums, so its risk aversion makes business sense. The only reason we are actually even mentioning it in a conversation about literary talent is because in recent years it has muddied the waters by pitching its self-marketing fairs in Karachi and Islamabad as ‘literature festivals’, effectively capitalizing on lucrative sponsorship from imperialist powers struggling to maintain influence amongst suddenly speaking subalterns. Other older publishers seem comfortable with the grooves they are in, textbooks and backlists. And there are issues like piracy, lack of transparency in accounting and royalties keeping writers away too. An increasing amount are choosing to self-publish.

What is the history of independent publishing in Pakistan? Is there space for it now?

I can’t answer that. I don’t think anyone can! There is no way to tell what is going on or what has been going on in terms of publishing, beyond the surface of it, because as I mentioned earlier there has been no centralized data collection. And booksellers here still play things very close to the chest.

An Interview with Publisher Michael Bhaskar on the Power of Curation

My interview with Michael Bhaskar, co-founder, Canelo was published in literary website Bookwitty on 24 January 2017. I am c&p the text below. ) 

Michael Bhaskar, co-founder and publishing director at Canelo, is known for being at the cutting edge of digital and traditional forms. Very active on Twitter with his perceptive comments on publishing, Bhaskar’s first book was the prize-winning monograph, The Content Machine. In his second book, Curation, he puts forth forceful arguments about the merits of curating content, especially to add value to businesses. His research focuses on the way digital technology is transforming the business and cultural context for publishing and other industries.

Bhaskar has been a British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur, a Frankfurt Book Fair Fellow and is currently a Visiting Researcher at the Oxford Brookes International Centre for Publishing.

Following are edited excerpts of an interview with Bhaskar:

Is there only one definition of “curation” as borrowed from art circles or after your research would you have a modern definition for the term?

Curation is interesting as the word, in English at least, has evolved. It came from the Latin ‘curare’ which meant to be take care of but eventually morphed into putting on and looking after museum and art gallery exhibitions. Then something interesting happened: about twenty years ago, with the web starting to become mainstream, the word curation suddenly started being applied to all kinds of things. Now we use it all over the place. The definition I use, and the definition I think most people intuitively understand, is that curation means ‘selecting and arranging to add value’. That, for me, is the modern understanding of the term.

How does curation, primarily a social skill, convert into financial capital?

I wouldn’t say curation is a social skill… for me it’s also about expertise, understanding, talent. The reason it’s so valuable today is that we are overloaded in so many contexts. Supply more just doesn’t work as a strategy. For example, just releasing another song or a book won’t work without some curation to make sure it finds its audience. Whenever you have a saturated market then, curation becomes invaluable to making sure it carries on functioning.

It is said content is the oil of the 21st century. How do you monetize curatorial abilities? The evidence in your book shows how companies, particularly Netflix, have benefitted tremendously but how can individuals?

There is no easy answer to this. I like to say that curation itself isn’t a business model but is baked into a business model. So Netflix wouldn’t work without curation, but it doesn’t get paid for it; it gets paid or providing people with the things to watch. The curation is kind of folded into the business model. The same is true if, for example, you run a shop. You get paid when people buy something, but the better curated your shop the more likely that is.

How is curation applicable to publishing? Are curatorial skills and the ability to discover dependent on the medium like digital or print matter?

We have far too many books in the world – one million new English language titles released every year. So publishers should be (and are) defined by what they say no to, by the choices that they make, by the careful, considered and highly curated nature of their lists. To me it’s this curatorial element that is central to publishing of all kinds and is only becoming more important.

With human behavioural patterns on the Internet changing rapidly and in the process transforming various social media platforms, the arguments about big data vs small data are gaining momentum. In this scenario how can the concept of curation be still important?

I actually think curation spans big and small data, human selections and automated systems: curation for me is broad and diffuse rather than narrow. So if you look at any of the systems and arguments you mention, they tend to come down to ways of selecting and arranging information, media and even people in various ways. Curation is at the heart of it! Almost every decision and project in digital media has the concept of curation at the heart of it – just look for example at the discussion of Facebook and the US election.

Is human touch / intervention important for curation or can it be left to machines and algorithms?

The truth is we need both. There is this tendency in the tech world to think technology will just take over. It won’t. We value that personal, idiosyncratic touch. We want to know about things precisely because they come from an individual. Yet in the age of big data this isn’t enough – to sift through millions of songs or newspaper articles, you need an algorithm. So the future isn’t about one or another but blends of both.

If curation adds value to a business why don’t we see more posts in firms for such a role?

A few reasons: one, because as I mentioned, it’s baked into the business model. So a buyer, or an editor, or a merchandiser, or an information architect, or a holiday planner, or a DJ: all of these roles are curators but we don’t call them that. Secondly I think we are seeing more such roles being created every day – all the big tech companies have been on a hiring binge for people in these roles over the past year.

Isn’t the ability to curate or access curated material exclusively a middle class phenomenon?

Partly. It’s true to say that it impacts on more affluent people more than less. But that doesn’t mean it’s not spreading because it is. Anyone with access to the Internet is experiencing these trends. Yes, there are a lot of people in the world without access – but fewer with every passing year. So while much of this curation is relevant only to the better off, the direct of travel is that is becoming more significant everywhere.

Doesn’t curation of information have inbuilt biases that may in the long term perpetuate prejudices?

It can do, which is why we need a strong distinction between good and bad curation. Good curation is that which breaks us out of prejudices and goes beyond filter bubbles, bad curation just confirms it. We need to become literate about the kinds of curation going on out there and watch for it closely.

You are at the cutting edge of curatorial abilities in publishing. What do you think lies ahead in publishing? Will business models transform?

I’d like to think the work we are doing at Canelo, the digital publisher I co-founded, indicates the direction of travel. We are a digital publisher, but carefully curated; we take the best of the old world of publishing but combine it with an embrace of new technology and methods; we have a completely redrawn contracts for authors, which we think are much fairer. We believe in digital but we also believe in writers and words. It’s this kind of mixing of the old and the new, the tried and tested with the innovative that I think is the future of publishing.

Michael Bhaskar Curation Piatkus, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, Hachette, 2016. Pb. pp. 354. Rs 499 

24 January 2017 

Jaya’s newsletter 6 ( 7 Jan 2017)

Happy New Year!

January is an extremely busy month in terms of literary events. There are back-to-back literary festivals, book fairs, book launches and more. There have been some exciting announcements such as Amazon India launching Kindle in 5 regional languages. The annual NBT World Book Fair is now held 7-15 January and will showcase India’s cultural heritage. India is a significant book market. So it is no surprise that once again the Australian Council for the Arts is bringing a team of publishers to India for B2B interactions in January 2017.  Later this week the Hindu Lit Fest happens in Chennai, followed by Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2017 and Jaipur Literature Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary. Here is a preview.

As always the Costa Book Awards were announced at the beginning of the new year. And Etisalat Prize released its shortlist.

And for those based in Delhi, I will be in conversation with the wonderful novelist Chitra Bannerjee Divakurni about her latest novel, Before We Visit the Goddess. It is at 6:30pm on Monday, 16 January 2017, India International Centre, New Delhi.

Publishing Jobs and Appointments 

  • Sameer Mahale has joined Penguin Random House India as General Manager, Sales. He was earlier at HarperCollins
  • Manasi Subramanian moves to PRH India as Senior Commissioning Editor responsible for acquiring literary fiction and nonfiction.
  • There is a vacancy for Publisher, Scholastic India, Delhi. The person has to have minimum 6-8 years of experience in children’s and young adult literature. Please send resume to Neeraj Jain, Managing Director ( njain@scholastic.co.in ).

New arrivals ( Dec – early Jan)

  • Eric Bulson Little Magazine, World Form Columbia University Press
  • Narayan Rao Text and Tradition in South India Permanent Black
  • Emma Dawson Verghese Genre Fiction of New India Routledge India
  • Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers The Bestseller Code Allen Lane
  • Keith Houston The Book Norton
  • Prashant Reddy T. and Sumathi Chandrashekharan Create, Copy, Disrupt: India’s Intellectual Property Dilemmas ( with a foreword by Dr. Shamnad Basheer) OUP
  • Romila Thapar Indian Society and the Secular Three Essays Collective
  • William Dalrymple and Anita Anand Kohinoor Juggernaut
  • Jan Brandt Against the World ( transl. Katy Derbyshire) Seagull Books
  • Hannah Kent The Good People Picador
  • Maha Khan Philips The Curse of Mohenjadaro PanMacmillan India
  • Sarvat Hasin This Wide Night Hamish Hamilton
  • Ryan Lobo Mr Iyer Goes to War Bloomsbury
  • Laksmi Pamuntjak Amba Speaking Tiger Books
  • Sanchit Gupta The Tree with a Thousand Apples Niyogi Books
  • Andrei Sinyavsky Strolls with Pushkin ( transl by Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy & Slava I. Yastremski ) Columbia University Press
  • Armando Lucas Correa The German Girl Simon & Schuster
  • Martin Cruz Smith The Girl from Venice Simon & Schuster
  • Kate Furnivall The Liberation Simon & Schuster
  • Jeffrey Self Drag Teen PUSH
  • Lucy Sutcliffe Girl Hearts Girl Scholastic
  • Yona Zeldis McDonough Bicycle Spy Scholastic Press
  • Elizabeth Laird Welcome to Nowhere Macmillan Childrens Books

Interesting links

  1. Graphic novels radically rooted in Indian market
  2. The Great AI Awakening How Google used artificial intelligence to transform Google Translate, one of its more popular services — and how machine learning is poised to reinvent computing itself. ( An excellent article!)
  3. Andrew Wylie’s Global Approach to Agenting
  4. Vijay Prashad on “The essentials of socialist writing
  5. Juggernaut turns a page” A profile of the publishing house on
  6. On Meville House blogs an interview with a bookstore which closed down: An Interview with BookCourt’s Zack Zook
  7. Alt-right Milo Yiannopoulos’s cynical book deal with Simon & Schuster.
  8. Profile of sci-fi author, Ken Liu, bridging America and China
  9. Guwahati gets its first braille library
  10. In 2016, Hindi Literature Became the Voice of the Marginalised
  11. The nonfiction of my feminism by Amrita Narayanan
  12. Interview with Daisy Rockwell, Author, Artist and a Hindi-Urdu Translator
  13. Interview with Namita Gokhale on her new novel, Things to Leave Behind.
  14. Harvard discovers a few of its library books are bound in human flesh ( 2014)
  15. Photo album of Madras Literary Society ( estd. 1812) by Vikram Raghavan
  16. Most Women In Publishing Don’t Have The Luxury Of Being Unlikeable 

7 January 2017 

Jaya’s newsletter – 1

( As of this week I will be publishing a weekly newsletter on publishing and book news — international and local across languages. So if there is anything that you would like to alert me to please write: jayabhattacharjirose1 at gmail dot com )

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October is always a very busy month for publishers since the Frankfurt Book Fair is held — the mecca of publishing. So many announcements and deals are made.
  • cinestateWill Evans, Founder, Deep Vellum Publishing announced the launch of Cinestate, a cross-media company. Cinestate is looking to acquire rights to stories for literary translation and also to works that will appeal to a mass audience in multiple media, including print, digital, audiobooks, and film. ( http://bit.ly/2eTEkkX )
  • Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO, HarperCollins India wrote a guest editorial for Publishing Perspectives: “A call to protect freedom of expression and copyright in India” ( http://bit.ly/2dYV0tM) In a landmark judgement on 16 September 2016 Justice Endlaw of the Delhi High Court ruled on the “DU photocopy case”. It is being watched worldwide as a siginificant case study of copyright laws and its interpretation of “educational use” since it is argued that it will impact all forms of reproduction. The judgement and related resource material have been uploaded on SpicyIP, a blog on intellectual property (IP) and innovation law and policy, managed by IP exerts and lawyers. (http://bit.ly/2eTGotj )
The week gone by has been very exciting. Full of news.
  • karthikaIndian trade publishing is abuzz with the resignation of Karthika VK, Publisher, Harper Collins India. She had been at the post for more than a decade. (http://bit.ly/2dYM1ZF )
  • Significant appointments: Dharini Bhaskar, Publisher, Simon & Schuster India and Naveen Choudhary, Head of Marketing – Global Academic Business for India.
  • Prajwal Parajuly, has been appointed to the jury of the 2017 International Dylan Thomas Prize. dylan-prize(http://bit.ly/2eKypzU )
  • Internationally there is grief at the sudden demise of legendary literary agent, Carole Blake, Blake & Friedmann Agency. ( http://bit.ly/2dKymad) .
FBF is significant too since around this time there are innumerable literary prizes announced. Some notable announcements are:
  • The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.( http://bit.ly/2f9n3sX ) Bob Dylan is yet to acknowledge the award. (http://bit.ly/2dYQvzq). If he chooses to reject it as Jean Paul-Sartre (1964) the Nobel committee will continue to recognise him as the awardee.
  • paul-beattyThe Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2016 ( £50,000) was awarded to Paul Beatty for his satirical novel The Sellout. ( http://bit.ly/2dGYDWG) It is the first time an American has won. Also indie publishers Oneworld have created history for having won the award in two consecutive years. Last year their author Marlon James won. Only Faber has won this award previously back-to-back in the eighties for Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (1988) and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989). The morning after the award was announced Oneworld placed an order for 170k more copies of The Sellout of which 10,000 are being reserved for India. It is being distributed by PanMacmillan India. ( http://bit.ly/2eI1tdy )
  • The Nigeria Prize for Literature ( $100,000) was awarded to novelist Abubakar Adam Ibrahim abubakar-ibrahimfor Season of Crimson BlossomsThe Nigeria Prize for Literature rotates yearly amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature. ( https://www.facebook.com/nigeriaprizeforliterature/posts/1244773285544573 )
  • thien-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x724Madeleine Thien wins 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction (http://bit.ly/2ePd2xE)
  • A new literary prize for a non-existent book has been announced. ( http://bit.ly/2exG0DW )The winner of the Nine Dots Prize, announced Friday, will be awarded $100,000 (£82,000). The new award hopes to inspire innovative thinking about social science issues and is open to all authors, regardless of whether they have been published or not, from around the globe. The winner of the Nine Dots Prize will be announced in May 2017 and their book will be published in May 2018.The $100,000 prize is funded by the Kadas Prize Foundation, an English charity that seeks to stimulate research around the social sciences.

Book launches: On 25 October 2016 the annual Roli Books exhibition was inaugurated at Bikaner House, New Delhi. (26 Oct – 9 Nov 2016) It is on the Mewar Ramayana, the finest surviving illustrated manuscript. The book was launched by Jerry Losty and Sumedha Verma. Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books spent more than five years putting together this splendid book. mewar-ramayana

Jaya recommends: This list is based on the books I have acquired recently.
  • James Gleick Time Travel ( Harper)
  • Kio Stark When Strangers Meet ( TED, Simon and Schuster)
  • Kit de Waal My Name is Leon ( Viking, an imprint of Penguin)
  • (Eds.) Tutun Mukherjee and Niladri R. Chatterjee Nari Bhav: Androgyny and Female Impersonation in India ( Niyogi Books)
  • Vikas Khanna Essence of Seasoning ( Easy-to-make recipes that border on fusion cuisine.)
The following books are for children and would make excellent Diwali gifts too! amir-khusrau-puffin-india
  • Ankit Chadha Amir Khusrau: The Man in Riddles ( A stunning edition by Puffin India)
  • Juhi Sinha Festival Storybook ( Four stories on festivals, Scholastic India)
  • The Big Book of India Festival Puzzles ( Scholastic India)
Extras: 
  • “Algorithms could save book publishing but ruin novels” ( Wired, 16 Sept 2016,  http://bit.ly/2eTDFRZ)
  • A wonderful profile of literary translator and editor, Words without Borders, Susan Harris: http://bit.ly/2f9PSFO
  • “Flag hoisting in Chinnoor” A translation of the Tamil short story Chinnooril Kodiyetram written in 1968 by Saarvaagan, republished in Frontline, 28 Oct 2016. Translated by Subashree Krishnaswamy ( http://bit.ly/2eTw85o )
  • “The House of Fergiani: a Libyan publishing family’s commitment to literature and the liberating power of books” On Darf Publishers ( The National, 15 Oct 2015, http://bit.ly/2dOg9DA )

27 Oct 2016 

PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE AND DISNEY INDIA BRING DISNEY’S ICONIC STORIES AND CHARACTERS CLOSER TO INDIAN CHILDREN

 

Penguin & Disney

 

 

PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE AND DISNEY INDIA BRING

DISNEY’S ICONIC STORIES AND CHARACTERS CLOSER TO INDIAN CHILDREN

 

PRHMarch 08, 2016, Delhi: Penguin Random House and Disney India’s Consumer Products Disney Indiabusiness today announced the launch of Disney books. Penguin Random House will now hold the rights in India for publishing Disney’s iconic Mickey & Friends characters as well as – Aladdin, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Dumbo and the cast of The Jungle Book.

Published under the Puffin imprint and aimed at young readers, the fully-illustrated books will include readers, storybooks, colouring & activity as well as novelty books.

The first series of titles will be available to consumers March 14, 2016 onwards and will include Dumbo and Aladdin colouring books, Jungle Book, Dumbo and Peter Pan Treasured Classic editions, Peter Pan and Dumbo storybooks and readers Mickey’s Round Up, Donald’s Special Delivery, Minnie’s Rainbow, Minnie Red Riding Hood and Mickey Mouse Flies the Christmas Mail.

“Puffin India has long published some of India’s finest writing for children with generations brought up on books from authors including Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. We are delighted to now be working with Disney India to bring their well-loved characters to readers with a specific range of Indian publishing”, said Gaurav Shrinagesh, CEO, Penguin Random House in India.

“Disney is synonymous with storytelling. We all have grown up reading Disney stories and are familiar with Disney characters and classics such as Mickey & Friends, Aladdin, Pinocchio and many more. We are happy to be working with Puffin India to launch a series of Disney books for the new generation of readers in the country,” said Abhishek Maheshwari, VP & Head, Consumer Products, Disney India

 

For further details, please contact:

Caroline Newbury | Penguin Random House | cnewbury@penguinrandomhouse.in

Namita Jadhav | Disney India | namita.jadhav@disney.com

Richa Anand | Disney India | richa.anand@disney.com

 

About Penguin Random House:

Headquartered in New York City Penguin Random House is the international home to nearly 250 publishing imprints, with operations in 20 countries across five continents, publishing 70,000 digital and 15,000 print titles annually and with more than 100,000 eBooks available worldwide. We publish more than 70 Nobel Prize laureates and hundreds of the world’s most widely read authors.

Penguin Random House in India is part of The Penguin Random House Group worldwide. As India’s longest established international publishing company, we are the proud publishers of many of India and the subcontinent’s finest writers and publishing talent. Our authors have won prizes including the Nobel Prize, the Magsaysay Award, the Jnanpith Award, the Sahitya Akademi Award, Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, Man Booker International Prize, Commonwealth Writers Award, Shakti Bhatt Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

In addition to our Indian publishing program, we also make available over 30,000 of Penguin Random House’s international titles to our readers across India and the subcontinent every year.

Penguin Random House is committed to expanding our role as a cultural institution that serves society not only with the books we publish and investments we make in new ideas, creativity, and diverse voices, but also our belief in the power of books to connect and change lives. Together, our mission is to foster a universal passion for reading by partnering with authors to help create stories and communicate ideas that inform, entertain, and inspire, and to connect them with readers everywhere and across print and digital platforms.

About Puffin India:

Puffin Books India is the children’s imprint of Penguin Books India. Started in 1939, today Puffin is one of the largest, most diverse and successful children’s brands both in India and abroad. With an award-winning range of best-selling titles, Puffin’s ever expanding publishing list spans picture books, fiction, poetry and non-fiction. With a winning combination of literary classics and appealing commercial fiction, Puffin remains a children’s books innovator and perennial reader favourite.

Some of Puffin India’s finest writers include Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, R.K. Narayan, Anita Desai, Satyajit Ray, Devdutt Pattanaik, Jerry Pinto, Payal Kapadia, Anita Nair, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Subroto Bagchi, Derek O’ Brien, Paro Anand, Subhadra Sen Gupta, Ranjit Lal.

About Disney India’s Consumer Products Business:

Disney is the largest retail character licensor in the world with US$45 billion in character merchandising retail sales globally in 2013. The Consumer Products business includes: Toys; Fashion & Home; Food, Health & Beauty (FHB); Consumer Electronics; Stationery; Publishing and Retail Sales and Marketing. The Consumer Products business plays a critical role in providing Indian consumers a chance to bring a piece of the Disney magic home through a wide range of creative and locally appealing merchandise.

 

Today, Disney-branded products are available across a million retail locations in India. Disney-branded products are present in close to 500 retail touch points including hypermarkets with more than 3,000 SKUs across categories. Working with over 150 licensees across categories, Disney India’s Consumer Products retail branding, such as the unique Disney-branded corners in prominent retail outlets including Hamley’s and Big Bazaar, continue to reach more and more consumers across the country. Disney-branded products are available across all the key online portals with branded pages on Amazon and Flipkart and with strategic presence in portals like Myntra, Jabong, Snapdeal and more.

About Disney Publishing Worldwide:

Disney Publishing Worldwide (DPW) is the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, magazines, and apps, igniting imagination through storytelling in ever-inventive ways. DPW creates and publishes books and magazines both vertically in-house and through an extensive worldwide licensing structure. As a leader in digital products, DPW creates best-selling eBook titles and best-in-class original apps. DPW is also committed to the educational development of children around the world through Disney Learning, which includes Disney Imagicademy, as well as Disney English and other Disney-themed learning products. Headquartered in Glendale, California, DPW publishes books, magazines and digital products in 85 countries in 75 languages. For more information, visit www.disneypublishing.com.

Caroline Newbury

VP Marketing and Corporate Communications

Random House India

Penguin Random House

 

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Literati – “Readers return to book fairs” ( January 2016)

jaya_bhattacharji-300x300My column, Literati, has been published online on 16 January 2016 and will be published in print in the Hindu Sunday Magazine on 17 January 2016. I am c&p the text below. Here is the original url: http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/jaya-bhattacharji-rose-on-how-readers-are-returning-to-book-fairs/article8113687.ece 

Publishers across languages were taken aback by the phenomenally positive response at this year’s World Book Fair

“Because I have time to spare, and for the first time in my life nobody expects anything of me. I don’t have to prove anything. I’m not rushing everywhere; each day is a gift I enjoy to the fullest.”

                                                                                                                                           Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover

Isabel Allende’s latest novel, The Japanese Lover, ( Simon & Schuster) is a breathtakingly elegant novel, full of quiet grace, about ageing, love, and friendships across generations. There is violence in the story, plenty of it. It is impossible to escape it. Allende writes about her Jewish protagonist Alma Belasco who flees from Nazism in Poland as a young child, the setting up of camps for Japanese families in America after Pearl Harbour, and the devious rings of online child pornography, which Irina Bazili, a refugee from a Moldovan village, experienced. Yet, surprisingly, The Japanese Lover radiates peace. It is written by a 73-year-old novelist who is herself no stranger to violence, having fled Chile during General Pinochet’s coup. As in Toni Morrison’s stupendous God Help the Child, ( Penguin Random House) these two writers come to terms with the fact that there are hardships, but it is important to treasure life one day at a time.

It is this spirit that across during the World Book Fair this year. The fair was brought forward by a month since the country of honour, China, had requested it. Many Indian publishers were apprehensive about the move as they were not very sure about the impact it would have on sales. Yet publishers across languages have been taken aback by the phenomenally positive response.

Piyush Kumar, Publisher, Prabhat Prakashan, whose family has been selling Hindi books for many decades, was astounded by the response. He noted with happy astonishment, “After the crowds left on Sunday evening, our stall looked as if it had been looted. My father who started this business has never seen such record sales.” Across publishers and languages, everyone is reporting unprecedentedly brisk and healthy sales.

At the CEOSpeak on 10 January, organised by FICCI and NBT, Le Yucheng, the Chinese Ambassador, stressed that “books matter in bilateral exchanges”. The presentations focused on translations, digitisation, volume printing and paper trade. But the shocking rates offered by Indian publishers to translators needs to be addressed before such bilateral publishing programmes can be explored.

For instance, the range varies from no payment to an absurd 0.25 paise per word (which has no value given that the denomination is no in circulation) to an acceptable sharing of the author’s royalties. The Translators Association of UK recommends that translators be paid between £80 and £90 per 1000 words but it is still an uphill task to ensure that publishers pay this fee.

Talking of healthy sales, some reasons publishers gave for the phenomenon was that readers are now shunning online stores because of the fluctuating discount structures, the improved connectivity to the fair with the Metro, the fair being organised at the beginning of the month before household budgets are exhausted., the excellent weather, Delhi schools being shut to implement the odd-even traffic rule, and the discernible long-term impact of government programmes like ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ that have encouraged literacy and reading.

The size of the Indian publishing industry is estimated at Rs. 260.7 billion (2013-14) with a CAGR of 20.4 per cent. Manisha Chowdhury of Pratham Books remarked, “India is a country of more than 780 documented languages, 66 scripts, only 22 scheduled languages and we have lost 250 languages in 50 years. Sixty per cent of books published are for education. Children’s books are at 30 per cent. We do have a book hunger in this country where there is only one book available for every 20 children. Publishing for children is important only for textbooks whereas every child’s childhood should find a reflection in their literature.”

Having said that, at the book fair, children and adults were seen buying all kinds of books or attending conversations at Author’s Corners with equal enthusiasm. Online conversations like this, “M not into reading but my son is … nd he is after my lyf for wbf .. nd finally gng tmrw” are popping up often on social media newsfeeds. As a publisher said to me, “The glitz and glamour in Delhi is a mirage; people in this city are poor too, so those who come to the fair today may be on a budget, but they come to spend.” They live life to the fullest.

16 January 2016 

Storyweaver, Pratham Books

final-logo-pratham-booksWelcome to StoryWeaver from Pratham Books : http://www.storyweaver.org.inbanner-2-fc6332eba5193186348e9c5190fee65b

A whole new world of children’s stories. It is a platform that hosts stories in languages across India and beyond. So that every child can have an endless stream of stories in her mother tongue to read and enjoy. StoryWeaver is an open platform designed to be innovative and interactive. It invites both, the weaver of stories and the reader to connect and share the fascinating world of words and illustrations. This then, marks a new chapter in children’s literature and publishing. Come discover the magic of stories and the joy of reading – a cornucopia that will delight endlessly.

Medianama has a wonderful article on Pratham Books and Storyweaver. It is available at: http://www.medianama.com/2015/09/223-pratham-books-open-source/ But I am also copy-pasting the text in case it is not easily available sometimes.

Non profit trust Pratham Books has launched StoryWeaver, an open source digital platform, which features 800 stories in 24 languages (14 Indian and 12 international languages), with an image repository of over 2,000 images. These will be openly licensed and free of cost; content creators and other users will be able to read, download, translate, version-ise and print through the platform. Users will also be able to create and publish new stories, using the Creative Commons licensed content on the site.

The stories are available in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi and Odiya, along with English translations to all these languages (and Tamil and Telugu, excepting Assamese and Malayalam). It lists publishers like itself, African StoryBook Initiative and World Konkani Centre. The stories can be filtered by reading levels as well. The platform provides DIY videos for creating and translating stories. ( https://storyweaver.org.in/tutorials )

Anyone can translate stories by clicking on the ‘translate’ option under the selected story, which redirects you to login via Pratham Books, Facebook or Google+ and provides a host of Indian and African languages, along with French, German and Spanish to translate to. It displays the original text for reference and once done translating it lets users put in a new title, creator details and publish. Pratham Books says that it has generated more work opportunities for illustrators through their CC work. It also states that its primary users are teachers, librarians, writers and parents.

The trust hopes that this move will not only encourage more content creation but also address the scarcity of multilingual story resources in India and multiply it. With the launch of the platform, the trust has also created a “Weave a story” campaign where it has roped in children’s books writers Anushka Ravishankar, Soumya Rajendran, Rohini Nilekani and Rukmini Banerjee to write a special story for children. StoryWeaver will invite users to translate these stories and the trust expects that 100 new versions will spawn out of the 3 original stories. The first story to be launched on the platform is Ravishankar’s “Its All the Cat’s Fault”, which is expected to get 5 derivative versions today.

Google Impact Challenge shortlist
In August 2013, Google had shortlisted 10 non-profit organisations in India as finalists for its Google Impact Challenge intended to support a technology based social project with an award of Rs 3 crores. Among these was Pratham Books which intended to develop an open source platform to create and translate 20,000 e-books in minimum 25 languages to enable 20 million book reads by 2015.

Launch of books crowdsourcing platform
In June, Pratham Books launched a crowdsourcing platform called DonateABook which let nonprofits and schools raise funding for books in order to provide them to Indian children. It connected book seekers with people who wanted to give books away. Then, there were 30 campaigns on the website, looking to raise between Rs 3,500- Rs 110,000 for multiple cities and towns in India.

The projects have been assigned for underprivileged kids, kids from government schools in villages, immigrant construction workers’ children and more, and sought books across Indian and English languages. Individuals as well as organisations who wanted to get books for the children they work with could also start campaigns on the platform. The platform sought to get 50,000 books for children by this Children’s Day, which falls on 14 November every year.

The Bangalore-based trust publishes cost effective books across Indian languages. It publishes books across genres like fiction, science, history, maths and nature among others. It claims to have published over 300 original titles in 18 languages, totalling up to 2,000 books across genres of fiction, nonfiction, and story books on science, history, mathematics and nature

 

8 Sept 2015

“A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces”, an interview with David Davidar, Kitaabnama

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, Episode 85, Kitaabnama, 10 April 2015An interview with writer, publisher and anthologist, David Davidar regarding his new book, A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces. It is a collection of 39 short stories by Indian writers. It consists of translations and those written originally in English and has been published by Aleph Book 20150811_090538Company. This episode of Kitaabnama was recorded on 10 April 2015.

Kitaabnama is a weekly programme on national television, Doordarshan. Conceived by writer and literary activist Namita Gokhale, the programme will have a participatory and inclusive format and showcase the multilingual diversity of Indian Literature. Addressing literary issues of contemporary through dialogue and conversation, Kitaabnama features books, readings and encounters with writers from the spheres of Hindi, English and various Indian languages, as well as guest appearances from International names and voices.

11 August 2015

James Wood and Tim Parks, two critics, two books

Tim ParksTwo prominent literary commentators and critics — James Wood and Tim Parks— have release books within months of each other. Both the books are compilations of previously delivered speeches and/or columns. James Wood’s The Nearest Thing To Life is a collection of Mandel lectures delivered in April 2013 at the Mandel Center for the Humanities, Brandeis University. It also contains a lecture delivered in February 2014 at the British Museum in a series run by the museum and the London Review of Books. Tim Parks Where I’m Reading From is a compilation of essays first published in the New York Review of Books.

Both the critics have chosen to write part-memoir, part-reflective essays but very germane James Woodto contemporary conversations about publishing, writing, reading and literary criticism. Since these were written over a short period of a time, published more or less immediately, these observations encapsulate a period in publishing history which would otherwise get lost in the deluge of information available online. To read these essays printed and bound as a book allows one the pleasure of absorbing the ideas at one’s pace. There is a range of issues they cover — reading, what constitutes good criticism, what is the hallmark of a good writer and critic, what constitutes disciplined reading, of literary prizes, storytelling and the notion of “home” that surfaces regularly among writers including these essayists, both of whom are Englishmen but reside in other countries — Tim Parks in Italy and James Wood in America. This eternal question about what constitutes “home” turns their attention on world literature. It is also fascinating to discover the strict Christian upbringing both the critics had which they consciously chose to move away from  — it requires tremendous grit and determination to transcend this — to read literature as acutely as they do, is astounding.

At a time when discussions about global literature, significance of translations, accessing new literature and cultures and cross-pollinations of literary traditions and techniques dominate, to have two prominent critics discuss world literature is significant. Tim Parks’s fearlessly exquisite essay, “The Dull New Global Novel” ( NYRB blog, 9 February 2010. http://bit.ly/1PnbidG)  and James Wood engaging essay in “Secular Homelessness” based on his impressive close reading of literature for the New Yorker ( Essay and podcast available at “On Not Going Home” LRB, Vol 36 No. 4, 20 February 2014. http://bit.ly/1PnbABm ). Reading literature especially fiction gives a literary critic formidable insight into socio-eco-political scenarios, raising questions, but connecting dots of daily life that would otherwise pass by us in a blur little realising their import. For instance the conversations about world literature and “tangle of feelings” as evident in world literature are closely aligned to issues about emigration/ immigration/ exile ( voluntary and otherwise), idea of home, the global village becoming a repository of many cultural influences  instead of being culturally homogeneous and undisturbed for many years, what are the politics of translations etc. Both critics, Tim Parks and James Wood, dwell at length on this as illustrated by a couple of extracts from the essays:

Tim Parks

What are the consequences for literature? From the moment an author perceives his ultimate audience as international rather than national, the nature of his writing is bound to change. In particular one notes a tendency to remove obstacles to international comprehension. Writing in the 1960’s, intensely engaged with his own culture and its complex politics, Hugo Claus apparently did not care that his novels would require a special effort on the reader’s and above all the translator’s part if they were to be understood outside his native Belgium. In sharp contrast, contemporary authors like the Norwegian Per Petterson, the Dutch Gerbrand Bakker, or the Italian Alessandro Baricco, offer us works that require no such knowledge or effort, nor offer the rewards that such effort will bring.

More importantly the language is kept simple. Kazuo Ishiguro has spoken of the importance of avoiding word play and allusion to make things easy for the translator. Scandinavian writers I know tell me they avoid character names that would be difficult for an English reader.

If culture-specific clutter and linguistic virtuosity have become impediments, other strategies are seen positively: the deployment of highly visible tropes immediately recognizable as “literary” and “imaginative,” analogous to the wearisome lingua franca of special effects in contemporary cinema, and the foregrounding of a political sensibility that places the author among those “working for world peace.” So the overstated fantasy devices of a Rushdie or a Pamuk always go hand in hand with a certain liberal position since, as Borges once remarked, most people have so little aesthetic sense they rely on other criteria to judge the works they read.

James Wood

What I have been describing, both in my own life and in the lives of others, is more like secular homelessness. It cannot claim the theological prestige of the transcendent. Perhaps it is not even homelessness; homelooseness (with an admixture of loss) might be the necessary (hideous) neologism: in which the ties that might bind one to Home have been loosened, perhaps happily, perhaps unhappily, perhaps permanently, perhaps only temporarily. Clearly, this secular homelessness overlaps, at times, with the more established categories of emigration, exile and postcolonial movement. Just as clearly, it diverges from them at times. Sebald, a German writer who lived most of his adult life in England (and who was thus perhaps an emigrant, certainly an immigrant, but not exactly an émigré, nor an exile), had an exquisite sense of the varieties of not-belonging. He came to Manchester, from Germany, in the mid-1960s, as a graduate student. He returned, briefly, to Switzerland, and then came back to England in 1970, to take a lectureship at the University of East Anglia. The pattern of his own emigration is one of secular homelessness or homelooseness. He had the economic freedom to return to West Germany; and once he was well known, in the mid-1990s, he could have worked almost anywhere he wanted to. 

Sebald seems to know the difference between homesickness and homelessness. If there is anguish, there is also discretion: how could my loss adequately compare with yours? Where exile is often marked by the absolutism of the separation, secular homelessness is marked by a certain provisionality, a structure of departure and return that may not end. This is a powerful motif in the work of Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnian-American writer who came to the States from Sarajevo, in 1992, only to discover that the siege of his hometown prohibited his return. Hemon stayed in America, learned how to write a brilliant, Nabokovian English (a feat in some sense greater than Nabokov’s because achieved at a steroidal pace), and published his first book, The Question of Bruno, in 2000 (dedicated to his wife, and to Sarajevo). Once the Bosnian war was over, Hemon could, presumably, have returned to his native city. What had not been a choice became one; he decided to make himself into an American writer.

These books are a precious addition to my personal library.

Tim Parks Where I’m Reading From Harvill Secker, London, 2014. Hb. pp.250 Rs 599

James Wood The Nearest Thing To Life Jonathan Cape, London, 2015. Hb. pp. 140. Rs 599

15 May 2015