business of publishing Posts

“It Is An Exciting Age”

Over a decade ago I did a regular column for Business World. It was on the business of publishing. Here is the original url.


Professor Werner Rebsamen always wanted to see “the other sides of the mountains”. His luck came, when he was picked from over 50 candidates to work as a master bookbinder in the US. Binding gilded Bibles in leather required the highest skills. In 1973 he set-up the first in-line printing and hardcover book binding system. He became a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) teaching all aspects of print-finishing.  In his 26 years at RIT, together with graduate students, he conducted many research projects, industry seminars and received a patent for a lay-flat binding method. In 1994, he received the Technical Leadership Award from NAPL, the “Oscar” of the Graphic Arts industry. Being “retired” since 2001, Rebsamen is still active as a trade consultant and as technical director of HBI (Hardcover Binders International). But whenever he finds time, in winter, he enjoys downhill skiing, during other times gardening, sailing and travelling around the world. His slogan: “The one who shares knowledge learns the most!” In an interview with Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, the veteran bookbinder talks about his journey through the trade, the innovations that have taken place over the years as well as the challenges traditional printers and binders face with the advent of e books.

How and when did you decide to enter the trade of bookbinding?
In 1950, when I was 14 years old. That is the age in Switzerland when most of us had to decide on a career. My father was a plant superintendent of the largest trade bindery in the country. He tried to talk me out of becoming a bookbinder, citing “too many headaches etc.” Out of our class of 48, only two were allowed to go to the university (paid by the government) All others were sent to trade schools. After you earn a journeyman degree, you work for a living and attend the evening schools, go for your master. That takes over five years.

You are credited with a lot of innovations in this field. One of the most important ones has been to introduce mechanisation in book-binding in the 1970s.
Most likely, your question makes a reference to setting-up the world first fully automated book manufacturing facility, printing and hardcover binding 70 books a minute. But throughout my career, I have always looked at various tasks and asked myself, is there a better way to do this? I “invented” many items, especially in the manufacture of leather bound Bibles. But the best known may be the idea of RepKover, a lay-flat method of binding. That patent did pay good dividends. (It’s expired now)

What is the total volume of business internationally and in India? What are the key features?
Virtually, every printed product needs to be converted into a marketable form. This is what we call Print-Finishing. I am a technical person, yet you do ask a marketing question. I am sure there are sources, which could give you marketing data about print-activities. These days, skilled craftsmanship is rare. But luckily, our machinery engineers, in close cooperation with binders, have built machinery and systems that make the task of print-finishing and binding much easier. We all have seen it at Welbound Worldwide in Kerala.

When we met in Kerala for the National Book Printer’s Conference, you said you conducted workshops at your laboratory. Were there any constructive suggestions of these engagements between printers, book binders etc.?
Most mistakes in printing or binding are made in the planning stage. So, next to teaching courses for under — and graduate students, we conducted industry seminars. The BMI Book Manufacturers’ Institute (Palm Coast in the US) financed 50 of these three-day seminars. I conducted another 50 plus on print finishing. These, apart from many articles published, generated many good dialogs between the publishing production managers, printers and binders. In these workshops, participants could bind a hardcover book. People still talk about these educational events.

You have been in this business for over sixty years. Now we are the cusp of another major revolution in publishing – a tangle between electronic and print publishing. So what is the future for print?
Our business is changing fast, yet it offers new opportunities, especially with digital printing. Business is changing. Some segments such as the photo books are not growing, they are exploding. I wish I could again be 40 years old; it is an exciting age, full of great, new opportunities.

Where do the challenges lie for binders, printers and publishers?
Many trade bookbinders added digital print equipment. Publishers are catching on systems such as Amazon. In the past, we used to fill warehouses with books. Now, we first sell a book, get paid for it and only then print and bind it, often one at a time. Lightning Source for example prints and binds 50,000 plus such books every day.

How should traditional printers be prepared for the demand in e-books?
As presented, traditional titles did grow 5 per cent from 2009 to 2010. Non-traditional titles grew 169 per cent and those are only the titles listed as ISBN (International Standard Book Number, the unique number accepted globally to denote a commercial book). E-books will affect larger runs of traditional titles. Clearly, this was a trend recognised at the last BMI meeting just a few weeks ago. Now I got an invitation from them to address this topic at their next meeting in Palm Beach, Florida.

Given the new trends, do you think that the book binders business will decline as is being ominously predicted?
Oh no, those who sell binding equipment all over the world, report good business, especially for on demand printing and binding.

15 Jan 2021

Copyright Law: More Than A Moral Obligation

Over a decade ago I did a regular column for Business World. It was on the business of publishing. Here is the original url.


It was a cozy and warm atmosphere in a bookstore in South Delhi — with plenty of cushions thrown on the floor — that I attended a delightful book launch for children. The book was displayed prominently, along with some fabulous original illustrations done by the author, from which the book illustrator had been “inspired”. I clicked some photographs with my smartphone. The publishers, based in another city, couldn’t attend the event. So, I thought why not mail it to them, they are fraternity. Soon, a newsletter popped into my mailbox from the same publisher, with a lovely write-up of the book launch accompanied by my photographs, but with no acknowledgement given to me. I was disappointed. 

After pondering over it, I decided to bring it to the publisher’s notice. To me, it was the principle of recognising the IPR (intellectual property rights) of the creator and giving due credit that I felt was at stake here. This was the reply I received, “So sorry. It was a slip up as I had said that you should be acknowledged. But since that is not the usual practice — simply because no one had asked — it was overlooked.” An apology received and accepted. I did not stop at that. I requested that in the next newsletter it should be rectified and on the blog, the photographs uploaded should go with credits. To explore larger issues surrounding copyright, and for publishers in general, management of copyright is a very important part of their business. In May 2012, the Indian Parliament passed a few amendments to the Copyright Act. (It is still a bill, at the time of writing this column.) A victory to a large extent for the music industry, but it has made very little difference, so far, to the publishing industry. Plus, the debate surrounding Clause 2(m) of the Indian Copyright Act is still an open chapter. As per the clause, a book published in any part of the world can easily be sold here. Thus, diluting the significance or infringing upon an exclusive Indian edition. The Parliament Standing Committee investigating the pros and cons of Clause 2(m), made a “forceful recommendation” for its amendment, but it was not included in the bill. So the HRD Minister has referred it to an NCAER expert committee constituted. However, another amendment relevant to the publishing industry has been the increase in copyright term for photographs. “This will make using older photographs impossible without hunting down the original photographer,” says Pranesh Prakash, a lawyer and copyright expert and programme manager at Centre for Internet and Society. “So far, things have worked well because sepia-tinted photographs have generally become part of the public domain. But now, only photographs by photographers who died before 1951 are part of the public domain. This has shrivelled up the public domain in photographs since it is even more difficult to trace the photographer (and date of death) than to estimate the age of a photograph, determining whether a photograph is in the public domain is laden with uncertainty. The use of historical photos in books (and Wikipedia) will be badly affected.” Having been a publisher for years, I tend to be very careful about issues involving copyright. Dig deep and you will find anecdotes that illustrate the crying need for understanding copyright issues. For example, an illustrator submitting files to a reputed art director could be told that the illustrations are not up to mark. Unfortunately, when the book is published, the ‘new’ illustrations are pale imitations of the original line drawings submitted by the illustrator. Or for that matter, a playwright being asked to create a script, but is never acknowledged or even paid the royalty due since the director believes that the core idea for the play is hers. ‘The playwright merely gave it a form’ is a common retort. Or, a couple of editors discovering their original research (and highly acclaimed globally) has been blatantly plagiarised by a well-known writer and published by an equally prominent publisher. Despite having marshalled all the necessary evidence, the editors are unable to file a case, since the court fee is a percentage of the damages sought and is beyond their reach. So, these cases stagnate with no redressal and the creators are left frustrated and angry. The core issue is, how many professionals in the publishing eco-system actually know what is copyright or how to exercise their rights? After all, it is only a concept, albeit a legal one, which gives the creator of an original work exclusive right(s) to it for a limited period of time. Establishing and verifying the ownership to copyright is a sensitive issue. A good example of how an organisation can facilitate, disseminate, inform and empower a literary community on IPR and related topics is the Irish Writers Union. According to their website, it is “the representative organisation for one of the major stakeholders in any discussion about copyright: Irish authors. While we understand that copyright legislation might be a barrier to innovation in certain industries, the IWU believes that any change to copyright law must be managed in such a way as to ensure that no damage is done to Ireland’s literary activity. …literature earns hard cash for Ireland. Both in the form of its contribution to the €2bn annual gain from cultural tourism and in the considerable revenues deriving from the success of sales of Irish works, Irish publishing and writing is an activity that should not be jeopardised by any legal change that weakens the value of copyright ownership to the creators of original literary works. …We note that if anything, copyright law in regard to literature should be strengthened to protect rights holders.” As Shauna Singh Baldwin, a Canadian-American novelist of Indian descent, comments upon the significance of copyright in an e-mail conversation with me, “The breath of the individual creator, his/her imagination and speculation gives life to a work of art. To create something new, you take ideas from many sources, recontextualise them, find unexpected connections between them, and create something new — and beautiful. If we continue to be ashamed of our own imaginations and so fearful of mistakes that we must copy the tried and true, we will never create, only innovate.” 
As for the rejoinder and photo credits I had requested for my photographs, the publisher implemented it immediately. And I was glad.

15 Jan 2021

National Book Promotion Policy: Where Are We?

The following article was based on a presentation I did at FICCI ( Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry ) in 2011. The paper was published on BusinessWorld. The original link is here. I am also copy-pasting the text below.


The demand for books is being propelled by India’s 8.8 per cent growth in 2010 and the reading habits of the burgeoning Indian middle class. Publishers forecast India will be the biggest English language book-buying market in the world. Today, it is the third largest after the US and the UK; but ahead of major Asian competitors such as China and Japan. The good news is that India is poised on the cusp of a great educational revolution. Today, if one averages seven textbooks per literate student, the agencies of the Indian government print 1.8 billion books per year. Plus another two billion exercise notebooks. The downside however, is that more than seven million children in India drop out from schools. And all they need is a book. For that to happen, these books have to be created. In India, the government has made a commitment of $7.56 billion every year for a period of five years and has set aside $3.33 billion for 2010-11. Today, the demand drivers for education are based on the fact that it’s a young nation which has a population of 400 million between the age group of 5 to 24. Of this, 220 million attend schools and colleges. The “guesstimate” for the Indian book publishing is US$1.9 billion. Of this, educational books and higher educational books dominate 60 per cent of the market share. Some of the other prominent segments or lists are trade/fiction, business and dictionaries. There are 19,000 publishers in the country. Trade books account for 30 per cent of output by value (at Rs 4,200 crore), of which local publishing makes Rs 700 crore. Trade in English-language publishing-including fiction, non-fiction, and textbooks-is equivalent to Rs 9,800 crore of the total value of Rs 14,000 crore.

These are only some of the statistics that are being bandied about the Indian publishing industry. A publishing eco-system in any territory is vast and complicated. The verticals in it are not as clear as in any other industry, but this unique interdependence between different departments in a publishing firm is also its strength. Editors are dependent upon sales and marketing departments to keep them informed about reading trends in the market and bookstores and if there is any growing demand. Similarly, editors are able to commission and select manuscripts that not only cater to existing demands, but anticipate and predict future trends. In order to allow for such experiments to happen, editors and their publishing houses are dependent upon decisions like the recent Government of India’s draft National Book Promotion policy. Policies, such as these, help in creating and sustaining new markets which in turn, help in the growth of the industry.

For this first article in a series devoted to the publishing industry (domestic and international), its various aspects and the business thereof, I will focus on the National Book Promotion Policy. There are some good ideas enshrined in the policy that are bound to have a positive impact on the industry. For instance, strengthening the library movement; making books available for the differently-abled, women, children and in the rural areas; collecting authentic statistics about books and publishing; promotion of reading habit; fostering a translation programme; offering reasonable postal rates and elimination/reduction of duties and finally, capitalising upon technological changes.

In order to be effective and link publishers with the intended readership, there must be a census of the book industry in India, beginning with who is originating, to who is writing, and who is reading. If this is undertaken first, it will determine everything else. Equally, we need to study what our national institutions such as the National Library, NBT, NCERT, Raja Ram Mohun Roy Foundation, Sahitya Akademi etc. achieved in all these years. Similar initiatives like this have been implemented with a fair degree of success in countries such as Australia, Singapore and Canada. Australia has a grants system at national and state levels and they have proved very beneficial. Writers compete for grants under criteria that do not exclude emerging writers. In India, project grants awarded on merit and timelines (for the author) would greatly assist the development of works and writers.

The Canadian Council is one example of where this has been achieved successfully. I will quote (with permission) an excerpt from an e-mail that I received from Shauna Singh Baldwin. My experience with a great National Book Promotion Policy that works is the Canadian System. The Canada Council is an independent agency that makes grants to writers from tax money. I have served three times on the grant juries for writers, and found them fabulously objective. They have three grants — to emerging, mid-career and advanced writers. The Canada Council administers the Governor General’s prizes (like the Sahitya Akademi) for the past 75 years and having served on that jury in 2008 and read 137 novels submitted by publishers, I can tell you GG award money is hard won. The Canada Council also funds publishers and what is really important as an example to India: translators in other countries. For instance, my novels were published in Dutch by de Geuss in Holland under a grant from the Canada Council. The Canada Council pays for writers’ honorariums at readings – not a lot, but enough to promote the concept of respect for the artist. As you know, if you don’t pay for work, you won’t value it.

It is a combination of various kinds of initiatives that will strengthen the publishing eco-system in India and make it an integral part of the global publishing industry. Different aspects of this industry will be discussed in subsequent articles.

15 Jan 2021

Interview with Andre Schiffrin ( 21 Nov 2011)

On 21 Nov 2011, Business World published an interview I did with the legendary publisher, Andre Schiffrin. Here is the original link. I am copy-pasting the text below too.

Paris-based publishing luminary Andre Schiffrin is renowned not necessarily for the writers he has published (Chomsky, Foucault, Hobsbawm, etc.), but also for his successful business models in publishing. Jaya Bhattacharji Rose caught up with him to discuss the present, past and future of books. Excerpts:

You have been in publishing for over 60 years now. How have things changed?
The role of the reader has always been important, but never as much as now, with the arrival of digital publishing and big chains. The challenges are mostly negative, especially for independent publishers. Google and Amazon are creating a monopoly, destroying the bookstore and the paperback. (E-books are as cheap as paperbacks.) With Amazon venturing into direct publishing, the future looks bleak for maintaining the publi-shing models of the past, where there was a stress on quality, and on nurturing new writers and thinkers. A good modern-day example worth emulating is what MIT is doing with its curriculum. It is an important model where the output is available for free.

Can you elaborate on the challenges, especially for independent publishing?
Publishing is a macrocosm of society. Publishers need to take a risk and experi-ment with ideas and authors. Unfortunately, more than ever before, there exists a market censorship. Big publishers are being selective and, at times, conservative about what they publish. Secondly, the political decision is paramount in helping independent publishers. For instance, in Germany fixed pricing of books or resale price maintenance is important as it keeps independent bookstores alive. Publi-shers and importers of books in German have to fix a price for each book published or imported. Fixed price means all retailers will initially offer a book for sale at the same price, in whatever period of the year.

A third challenge is distribution networks. A good distribution network is the key for their survival. For example, in France, over a thou-sand independent stores have come together to share information and help each other. This network works well. So, you can order a title at any bookshop and within 24 hours it is delive-red. Finally, the role of the author in suppor-ting the independent publisher is significant.

How do you look at social media and the spaces it allows?
I am not against technology, but social media spaces are limited. It is not always easy to locate and discover, and engage with opinion makers there. It is important to be printed, published and disseminated in the traditional manner. A recent example is Time For Outrage, written by 93-year-old Stephane Hessel. Published by a small French publisher in Montpellier, and priced at a mere e3 — it has sold over 3.5 million copies so far.

How have troubles in the US and the Eurozone impacted publishing?
Publishing in these territories is under-going a transformation. The growth of publishing firms is mainly due to M&As. But the most significant impact for Indian publi-shing is in the growth of printing. Publishers from these territories seek ways of being cost-effective, by outsourcing printing to India— and they have been doing so for a while now.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 21-11-2011)

15 Jan 2021

Brad Stone “The Everything Store”

On 8 Nov 2014, I wrote an article in BusinessWorld about the recently released book by Brad Stone on Amazon called The Everything Store . The link to the original article is here. I am also copy-pasting the article below.

Bloomberg journalist Brad Stone’s ‘The Everything Store’ is about Jeff Bezos and his baby, Amazon. After the book was published, Bezos distanced himself from the book. Significantly his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, gave the book a one-star rating on Amazon saying it contains “numerous factual inaccuracies” and is “full of techniques which stretch the boundaries of non-fiction”. The book is based on a number of interviews that Stone conducted with Bezos, his staff and ex-colleagues to get a sense of the firm. What is very clear after reading the book is that Amazon is significant because it has the advantage of being a first mover, it is a game-changer, certainly for publishing.

There are three points worth considering:

  1. Bezos was the first to exploit the potential of the internet and collaborate with start ups with new ideas. For instance, his acquisition of a firm that specialised in digital books, with the .mobi format, resulted in his insistence on making the files uploaded on Kindle to be DRM protected.
  2. He knew that sales ranks would be like a drug to authors, so he insisted that it change whenever a new order came in: thus influencing the gradual shift in publishing houses laying more emphasis on marketing and promotional activities than on editing and commissioning. (Whereas it cannot be an either/or situation, it has to be a combination.)
  3. Finally Bezos’s famous analogy of comparison that publishing firms are like gazelles and Amazon is a cheetah. This belief was integral to his strategy in agency pricing. He had to persuade publishers to give him the digital files to the books they published. (It required time since many publishers discovered that they did not have the rights to the digital formats from the authors.) He was convinced marking the books at such a low price was rational since there were no printing and warehousing costs involved — a misconception that has come to be associated with the entire system of publishing. But Amazon is able to achieve much of this due to the ‘technological moat’ it has dug for itself, that is, of low margins. It ensures that with the creative vision Bezos and his team have they are able to expand their business into uncharted domains, effectively keeping competition out.

At BookMark, the B2B space for publishing professionals at the Jaipur Literature Festival there were a number of fascinating conversations about the business. Most significantly the resistance in original publishing to digital and the disruption it would cause in the publishing ecosystem was no longer making news. The presence of technology to facilitate, produce and disseminate books is now an accepted norm. It is here to stay. It was interesting to see how the industry was responding to the rapid changes taking place in the environment, necessitating a rapid pace of evolution by adapting and adopting new methods.

Take Penguin Random House CEO John Makinson’s comment at the event, for instance. The coming together of Penguin and Random House was a “strategically delivered merger” since it was the only combination that changed the game, said Makinson. He was confident that the industry would consolidate itself in a bit of time. At a time when the global industry is reeling from the massive presence of Amazon, the formation of Penguin Random House catapults it to the first position with 25 per cent share of the global market. In October 2013, Jüergen Boos, Director, Frankfurt Book Fair, at the opening of the fair, warned that companies like Amazon, Apple and Google were “logistics magicians but are not publishers”. It stands to reason since online recommendations are purchase based and not behavioural. It does not tell you what people want to read since much of the online purchases are for gifts.

There has to be serendipity in publishing. It is the smarter way of keeping the ecosystem alive, creating newer readers and shifting away slightly from being only a writer’s space.

The overwhelming presence of Amazon, Google, and the iBook store of Apple and closer to home, Flipkart, has resulted in the “disturbing dominance of content” as John Makinson put it. It is inevitable that online retail platforms will require large volumes to remain sustainable. They are not discerning and curate content as booksellers are known to do with their stocks. So, it is fairly common to find on these websites second hand, and out-of-print books, or those titles that belong to backlists but are not readily available. In fact, Paul Yamazaki of City Light Booksellers and this year jury member, DSC South Asian Literature prize is clear that he will retain titles on his shelves that are worth recommending, not necessary that it is the latest title creating waves in the media. City Light Books, is a landmark independent bookstore and publisher that specialises in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It was established by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin and synonymous with the ‘beatniks’.

Of late, publishers have been a worried lot since their traditional forms of publishing are not giving them the benefits they have been used to; in addition the sales of ebooks have plateaued, falling far short of the forecasts. The reliance on frontlists is making publishers an anxious lot since author brands only work for a limited time and within a given framework. For instance, commercial fiction authors are a brand unto themselves, a specific market who only read the specific author, but do not guarantee sales with every title. Ever since publishing houses were established they relied on a formula of 80:20 where 20 per cent was reserved for experimentation or the mid-lists, to discover and nurture new writers, which sometimes became the bedrock of the future for the firm. This is now happening less and less. Instead it is easier to offer authors a contract once they have proven themselves in the market. Many new voices are being discovered via the self-publishing route and traditional firms recognising the business potential of this are offering self-publishing services. This is in trade publishing. But even in academic publishing, technological advances and the presence of agents such as Apple, Google and Amazon have had an impact. For instance, material in a digital form for classroom and assisted teaching, teacher resource material and even the rent-a-textbook model, like Coursemart, have proved to be successful.

Among some of the other responses to the changing environment were that established businesses know the only way forward is to recognise that their expertise is limited; collaborations with new ideas or new startups is the only way to keep the business afloat; exploring a subscription service to deliver books/content to users/customers as indicated by the tie-up between Scribd and HarperCollins; looking to create a market beyond English-language readers (since it is a limited market), moving beyond viewing English as a functional, operational and legal language, translating content and creating a base of readers in the mother tongues to increase readership. The fact is that when markets are volatile and competing forces are at play and with 40 per cent of the population online it is not easy to forecast what will happen in the near future, save that a certain amount of realignments will happen through mergers and acquisitions, new systems will evolve and it will be survival of the fittest — big or small, who knows for now!

15 Jan 2021

Books on the business of publishing

For more than 500 years the aim of all publishing was to produce a physical product, and therefore design was concerned with the qualities of the book as an object, taking into account its haptic qualities and durability as well as the visual arrangement of text, illustrations, and binding. The development of electronic publishing channels alongside the printed book has radically changed this. Publishers may control every aspect of a physical book’s design but, as content providers for electronic distribution, their influence overthe appearance of an electronic book and how readers interact with it may be limited by the devices and platforms on which they publish. The design of both the material book and the virtual book therefore need to be considered, because design for publishing involves the creation of both engaging individual artefacts and complex design systems.

p. 311, Paul Luna “Book Design”, Ch 19, The Oxford Handbook of Publishing ( eds. Angus Phillips and Michael Bhaskar, 2019)

Over the past few months, I have read a bunch of fascinating books on the business of publishing. These are — The Oxford Handbook of Publishing ( eds. Angus Phillips and Michael Bhaskar, 2019); Contemporary Publishing and the Culture of Books ( Eds. Alison Baverstock, Richard Bradford and Madelena Gonzalez, 2020); Inside Book Publishing ( Eds. Giles Clark and Angus Phillips, 6th edition, 2020) and Lynette Owen’s Selling Rights ( 8th edition, 2020). Two of these books, Inside Book Publishing and Selling Rights, are considered seminal reading, for book publishing professionals. Mapping the evolution of publishing in recent decades via the publication history of these two books is a tale unto itself. Massive shifts in the manner in which the business of publishing is conducted especially the variety of formats one has to contend with. Many of the production processes remain the same with technological advances improving the output. Yet, at the core of the business, little has changed. It is still a people’s sector that for the love of ideas and storytelling, an individual or a firm’s IPR is converted into a saleable commodity, a book. How it forms a market and operates across the globe is fascinating. It is also a unique industry in that every product created is specially designed. It is not a cookie-cutter formula applicable across the board for all products. This is also what makes the industry special.

The Oxford Handbook of Publishing is a fine collection of essays that delves into the business of publishing, from all aspects. The articles range from the history of publishing, book making, book design, rights, copyright, publishing and social responsibility, curation, globalization and publishing, strategies, educational and academic publishing, publishing and technology, marketing, libraries and bookselling. A variety of business models are discussed including those firms that have been listed on the New York stock exchange. Surprisingly, Scholastic Inc. that has been discussed in detail and is one of the few firms listed on the NYSE is not considered one of the Big Five publishers. Nevertheless, every single chapter is so packed with information, data and analysis that it takes a while to absorb it all. The concluding chapter discussing the future of publishing is thought provoking. It discusses the impact of AI on publising, the idea of translation on demand, a service made popular by Google Translate, the importance of ebooks, print on demand and the escalating costs of making print books.

Much of what is dicussed in this book is very relevant to the book publishing industry. It is seeped in histories. It shares immense amounts of knowledge as many of the essays are written by well-known publishing professionals. The case studies discussed in the book are informative and will make for essential reading in coming years. Yet it is inexplicable why large book markets outside of Anglo-America are reduced to passing references in the essays instead of being discussed in equal measure as examples cited from Anglo-America. It is an opportunity lost particularly when the business of publishing is viewed on a global scale where all markets are considered equally.

Nevertheless it is a book that is hugely useful and will find its place in many reference sections of libraries. It will be cited for many years to come. It is phenomenal work contained in a single volume.

Inside Book Publishing is already a classic in publishing studies. This is the 6th edition of the book whose editors are Giles Clark and Angus Phillips. Their opening remarks in the preface is worth reproducing:

The history of this book’s publication reflects the dramatic changes in publishing over the decades. Since its conception in the 1980s, the copyright of Inside Book Publishing has passed through six changes of outright publishing ownership, has appeared under five publishing imprints and has been worked on by eight editors. This story is not unique in publishing today.

The different editions of this book are excellent textbooks that give a clear understanding of what publishing entails. While this book has been written specifically for UK, it is a useful manual for others to consult too. Production processes are not very different in various territories. But what is truly unique in this particular edition of the book are the contributions by specialists entitled “Expert, focus and skills boxes”. It is a fantastic element to introduce in a textbook as it represents the diversity in the sector. So there are contributions by phenomenal book publicist Sam Missingham, publishing consultant Rudifer Wischenbart, journalist and International Editor of Publishers Weekly – Edward Nawotka and literary agent Juliet Pickering of Blake Friendmann. This is a book where every edition is worth treasuring!

Lynette Owen’s name is synonymous with selling of rights. Her expertise in this particular aspect of publishing is legendary. This is the eighth edition of her phenomenal book but she remains clear that it continues to be a “practical handbook for those working in the book industry, in particular rights staff working in pubilshing houses and literary agencies, but also recognising some readership from members of the legal profession with a particular interest in publishing rights, and by students on the various publishing degree courses.”

Selling Rights is more like an encyclopaedia of information on the rights market. It is a crucial segment of the publishing world. For years and years, it has been the purview of those skilled practitioners who have understood how book markets are defined and how rights operate within the territories. The buying and selling of rights is a significant contributor to the business of publishing. For decades these were confined mainly to the various print editions and whether hardback and paperback rights were to be sold together or separately. But with the twenty-first century and the explosion of multiple formats especially on digital platforms has resulted in this aspect of publishing becoming a lucrative segment but with many, many factors to be considered. Also, with growing awareness of copyright amongst authors and readers/audiences and with the growth of piracy, it is imperative that rights be managed correctly and securely. The best practices must be observed. Selling Rights is a brilliant handbook in that it encompasses all these aspects by having something for the novice to the world of rights to the more experienced professional. It is a must for all those professionals serious about copyright and observing ethical practices.

Contemporary Publishing and the Culture of Books is a collection of essays that engages with the impact of book publishing on book culture. It addresses interesting modern aspects of publishing such as the types of publishing houses that emerged especially in the digital landscape; structures of publishing houses and how they are being challenged or being diversified in response to evolving times; development of shared-reading communities; the review and the reviewer’ influence of creative writing courses and of couse the literary agent; the growing importance of audiobooks and finally an interesting segment on French children’s literature and autism. Many of these essays are very thought-provoking such as the one by Per Henningsgaard making the argument for Amazon to be included in the Big Six publishers. Another fascinating essay is by Jasmin Kirkbride on “Understanding our place: publishing’s role in the reading ecosystem under neoliberal economics”.

Contemporary Publishing and the Culture of Books as a standalone volume is fascinating but when read together as I did in conjunction with all the other books mentioend in this blog post, it helped plug in gaps that were evident in the other tellings. Simply because it was beyond the scope of the other books to take on aspects of book publishing as has been done in this volume. These are essays that make one think and not just observe, document and analyse existing publishing processes. These essays ask questions.

It has taken me weeks and months to read through these volumes. Yet, I feel that I need to return to these books over and over again. These are excellent reference volumes. At times to make sense of the rapidly evolving publishing business it is essential to read extensively especially specialist books like these where many years of shared experience and wisdom are encapsulated.

2 Aug 2020

JaipurBookMark ( JBM), 21-22 January 2015, Narain Niwas, Jaipur

The Jaipur BookMark 2015
Where South Asia meets the world

21-22 January 2015, Narain Niwas, Jaipur

(JBM 2015 will run for two days parallel with the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival on the 21 and 22 January)


Day 1: 21st January 2015


Sanjoy Roy, Namita Gokhale, Oliver Moystad

1:30 PM-2:30 PM- INAUGURAL LUNCH hosted by NORLA

2:30 PM-3:30 PM- SESSION 1


A business like no other, publishing finds it notoriously difficult to raise finance: a session on the business of publishing; discussing the structural issues concerning publishing, bank finance, volume and scalability etc.


Speakers: Dr Shubhada Rao, Henry Rosenbloom, Bikash Niyogi, Manas Saikia, Atiya Zaidi and Aditi Maheshwari
Moderator: Naresh Khanna

3.30 PM – 4.00 PM TEA

4:00 PM-5:00 PM-SESSION 2


From social media to distribution, what should publishing professionals be aware of in their rapidly changing industry? Kindles, Kobos, iPads and audiobooks; what does all this new technology mean for the industry from writers to editors, marketers to consumers?

Speakers: Nicolas Idier, Niyam Bhushan, Rajiv Mehta, Ajit Baral and Vishal Anand
Moderator: Arpita Das
Session Supported by: NewsHunt

5.00PM – 6.00PM – SESSION 3

An IGNCA supported Open Forum, on the convergence of Libraries, Archives and Museums. With more access to information available online than ever before, regardless of location, what new role could and should libraries and archives play in making information accessible to all?

Speakers: Dipali Khanna, Alberto Manguel, Nicholson Baker, Dr. Venu Vasudevan and Shantanu Ganguly
Moderator: Bharti Sinha
Session supported by: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts

6:00 PM-7:00 PM DRINKS

Day 2: 22nd January 2015


10.45 AM – 11.30 AM – SESSION 1

‘More than 48 printed pages and bound within 2 covers’, is that the book or is there more to it? On the changing format and technology of the book in an increasingly interactive environment.

Ralph Mollers in conversation with Sirish Rao; introduced by Ute Reimer-Boehner

11.30 AM- 12.30 PM – SESSION 2


How do we translate content across multi-media and digital borders including e-books, audio books, graphic texts and cross-media conversions?

Speakers: Vera Michalski, Satti Khanna, Mahua Mitra, Rick Simonson, Shona Martyn and Manasi Subramaniam
Moderator: Renuka Chatterjee

12.30 PM-1.30 PM SESSION 3


Increasingly, publishers in the global south are beginning to work directly with each other; literary festivals and bookfairs in southern countries are now choosing to focus also on southern authors. In a free ranging conversation, Australian publishers and literary entrepreneurs talk about new collaborations and new relationships.

Speakers: Ivor Indyk, Terri-Ann White, David Ryding, Kate McCormack, Wendy Were and Meredith Curnow
Moderator: Urvashi Butalia

1.30 PM-2.30 PM LUNCH

2.30 PM-3.30 PM SESSION 4


The book is no longer just a book–it is now a basis for film, video games, interactive reading, collective writing and so much more. With book formats morphing and mutating how will content adapt to survive?

Speakers: Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi, Prasoon Joshi, Sandip Sen and Renu Kaul
Moderator: Karthika V.K.

3.30 PM-4.00 PM TEA

4.00 PM – 5.00PM-SESSION 5


A viable reading policy involves encouraging reading, creating an infrastructure to make books available and finally providing books. What role can States and private actors play to overcome the gap between policies and their implementation?

Speakers: Oliver Moystad, M A Sikandar, Prof. Apoorvanand and Prof. Avdhesh Kumar Singh
Moderator: Manisha Chaudhry
Session supported by: National Book Trust


6 PM-7 PM DRINKS (those who wish to leave for DSC South Asian Literature prize at Diggi Palace may proceed)

Participants are free to network in the Rights Chaupal.

To register, please visit the Jaipur Literature Festival website at:

and click on the Register button.

Registration would include delegate status for the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival specified to the date.

Rs 3,500/- per day or Rs 6,000/- for two days per person

For further queries, please contact: [email protected]


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