|Vol. 5 No. 5,6 & 7 April - June 2011
|Dear Publishing Professionals,
Publishing is in a vibrant phase as there have been a number of changes
in the job profiles of publishing professionals from one publishing
house to another. Recently, Saugata Mukherjee, managing editor and
rights director at HarperCollins moved to Picador as publisher and
editor. Shruti Debi, editing, marketing and publicity chief at Picador
moved to head literary agency Aitkin Alexander Associates of UK in
Delhi. Ravi Singh, editor-in-chief of Penguin is due to join Alef,
Rupa’s new publishing division, in collaboration with David Davidar
(Ex-Penguin). Chikki Sarkar, chief editor at Random House has moved to
Penguin as publisher. So there have been lots of changes in the
publishing industry at a professional level.
there have been publishing conferences being held from time to time.
Recently, GBO organized Globalocal: The forum for content – the other
english speaking world. In September there are going to be two
publishing conferences- Publishing next, being organized in Goa by Mr.
Leonard Fernandes of Cinnamon Teal Publishing on 16th & 17th
September, 2011 and PubliCon-2011: The Business of Publishing organised
by FICCI on 28th & 29th September, 2011.
NBT has been organising publishing courses in various parts of the
country. In July they are going to have their annual 3 week course. The
Institute of Book Publishing has just completed their 4th Intensive
Course for Editors in Publishing from 23-28th May, 2011. It was well
attended by participants from India, Singapore and Nigeria. This shows
that Indian publishing is really on the move. I hope many more events
like these will keep on happening in the future.
with Sridhar Balan, Consultant at Ratna Sagar in conversation with S.K.Ghai
Q. How and when did you come into publishing?
I was an academic prior to joining the publishing industry. Initially, I
was a consulting editor to a ‘Right to Property and Fundamental Rights’
book and a 2 volume series on the Indian Constitution edited by Justice
Hidayatullah and published by Arnold Heinemann. My first regular job in
publishing was as a senior editor in Macmillan in 1983. I joined OUP in
1985. I left my formal position as a director in OUP on 1 January 2003
but continued with them as a consultant till the end of 2004.
You were a freelance columnist with the leading newspapers & a
professor. What attracted you to publishing? What subject you were
I guess I like both teaching and writing. The teaching job in the Dept.
of Political Science at the North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong
was both exciting and challenging and I must say I enjoyed those years. I
had started contributing academic articles to newspapers even then and
started writing regular columns for newspapers after I joined
publishing. The only difference was that these were now articles on
issues facing the industry.
Q. How did you like the change?
Ironically, if you review the careers of most of the stalwarts in the
publishing industry, you would find that most of them ‘drifted’ into
publishing after having started somewhere else. A colleague of mine had
once remarked that the best publishers were ‘failed’ academics. I don’t
know how good an academic I was, but I hope I have contributed something
Q. Which profession did you like the most: Teaching/Columnist/Publisher?
If you like books and reading, I guess you will like publishing. It’s a
very creative profession calling for diverse skills. At the end of the
day, if you hold a well-designed product in your hands that is, at the
same time, eminently readable, your satisfaction can be great. The
monetary compensation may not be great initially but being in the
company of educationists, academics and general authors more than makes
up. I certainly look back with satisfaction at the years I spent and
continue to spend, in publishing.
Q. You were a Course Director for a 3 months course on Publishing with FPBAI. How was the experience?
I enjoyed the 3 month stint as director of the course on publishing at
the FPBAI in 2003. Actually, my involvement was longer than that as
there were organizational matters to attend to, prior to the course. It
was a well- structured course with full academic rigour including
periodic tests and assignments. The course was the vision of three
stalwarts in the industry, Mr Sukumar Das then of UBSPD, Dr N.
Subrhamanyam then of TMH and Mr Nair of Konark. We had some bright
students too who were later absorbed in the industry.
Q. You have written so many articles, why have you not written a book? Are you planning to write one?
All the articles that I have published in books have been commissioned
ones and have involved some research. As a columnist in The Hindu, The
Economic Times, The Indian Express and The Financial Express (at
different times) I was free to write my own pieces, provided I stuck to
the word-length! I love contributing to the Biblio (where I am a
trustee) because we are a little liberal with the length. No, I have not
thought of writing a book because no one has yet asked me.
Q. What is your assignment at Ratna Sagar?
When I joined Ratna Sagar in 2005, my appointment as senior consultant
just carried one line "to help Ratna Sagar grow in every way". In the 29
years since its inception, Ratna Sagar has consolidated its position to
become one of the leading publishers in India. Growth has helped it to
diversify its product range. In addition to its educational books, it
now has a distinguished academic imprint, Primus and also some fine
medical and health related books in collaboration with Byword Books. We
have also taken on a range of dictionaries for exclusive promotion and
distribution from HarperCollins. I hope I have played some role in Ratna
Q. Do you influence recommendations of textbooks with teachers/professors?
I help to build a positive relationship with Ratna Sagar and its
customers, be they educational and academic institutions and the trade.
If, in this process, Ratna Sagar increases its business, well and good! I
am particularly happy with a program I take on reading in leading
schools. There is widespread concern about a decline in the reading
habit among children. I hold an interactive session with teachers about
how we can redress this and make the world of books come closer to that
Q. What are your views on globalization in publishing?
Rightly it’s said that publishing has not changed as much in the last
200 years as it has in the last 20! The frenetic selling and buying out
of companies in the 1970s and 1980s has resulted in much more
integration and consolidation now. The publishing company has become one
more arm of a multi-billion dollar octopus – a conglomerate. While this
has resulted in the greater availability of financial resources for
publishing, it has also resulted in books being viewed as revenue
generating commodities. The conglomerate’s approach to publishing is
very different to that of the great publishing gentlemen of yesteryear
who established great imprints in their own name. Today, a book is seen
as ‘a product to be quickly produced, attractively packaged, effectively
advertised and completely sold!’ Unfortunately, the nature of books is
such that they do not easily lend themselves to such an approach. The
flip side of globalization has resulted in India feeling t he need to
compete in the int ernational market. It has resulted in the industry
becoming more professional. We see this in better editing, better layout
and design and better finished products. This has helped in better
acceptance of our books both in the domestic and foreign markets. India
is no longer looked as merely a market for imported books but is an
active co-publishing partner with international publishers. Greater
technological innovation and inputs have resulted in maturation of the
printing industry and resulted in increased export earnings. The
publishing industry has played a complimentary role in getting global
recognition for Indian writers in English.
Q. What are your hobbies?
As can be guessed, I love reading both fiction and non-fiction. I
reserve a part of my weekend for reading and spend at least a couple of
hours on this. I also use the books I am reading to illustrate a point
or two in my articles. Since I travel on work quite a bit, I find it a
great opportunity to catch up on reading. As our home underwent
renovation recently and all my books had to be packed off into cartons, I
found the occasion to write a piece, ‘Books Are Memories on Shelves’.
While packing my books, I found myself reminiscing about when and where I
had got them. One of the most difficult things is to discard books. All
of them have given you so much pleasure. I love sports and watch most
games on television. In the 1960s, I had seen some memorable cricket and
tennis matches live on the ground. Two of them stand out. In the year
1966, Gary Sobers’s team from the West Indies gave us an innings defeat,
in the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, in 4 days after the crowds rioted and
play was abandoned for a day. In 1968, Ramanthan Krishnan made a
memorable comeback after being down 2 sets and 2-5 in the third set in
the Davis Cup tie against Thomas Koch of Brazil. That memorable win took
us to the Challenge Round against Australia.
Q. What is your message to young publishers?
I consider myself as still young, in the sense of learning new things
continuously! As far as young publishers are concerned, I think they
need to be aware of the changing environment of publishing. While books
may still endure, the jury is still out whether the future of reading
will still be in the print format or will it become digital. I would
like publishers to keep themselves open to publishing in the digital
format and see the enormous possibilities of e-publishing. The e-pub
format gives you better scope for an ongoing relationship with the
reader in the form of reader reviews, discussions with the author, etc.
Also, publishers could think of innovative ways in which the e-book
could support the promotion of the printed book. Customers would need
reading matter to be read on various devices across different platforms.
The publisher, being the master of content, would have to provide this.
Q. How would you describe a good book?
A good book can be described as something that should excite the
imagination and keep you engrossed. It’s not necessary to read the book
in one go. Rather, the book should make you ponder, think and sometimes
you may like to look up references for what you have read. I have seen
many readers marking passages in the book they are reading or scribbling
notes in the margins. While I would prefer notes should be made
separately, nevertheless I am happy the book has made such an impression
on them. We need to do a lot more for books and for the printed word.
Reading can be strengthened with both visual and audio support. It’s a
great experience to read while listening to an audio version of the
book. I think appropriate visuals too will greatly enhance reading.
Q. What is the future of a book?
With the advent of the e-book and reading becoming widespread in a
digital format either on e-readers and other devices, people have been
quick to sound the death knell for the printed book. I think the p-book
having endured for so many years, is quite resilient and may well
continue for some more years. Ultimately, the consumer is the king and
publishers will have to serve content to be read across a range of
devices, as per the customer’s choice. The print format will have to be
thought of as one more device for reading. There is a lot of romance and
nostalgia associated with a freshly printed book, holding it, feeling
it and even smelling it! Against this, we have to contend with the
seductive charms of the i-Pad, the Kindle or the Samsung Galaxy. To
each, his own! The saving grace is, that reading continues. A happy
marriage would of course be, where the e-book and the p-book complement
each other and where one format can be used to promote the other!
20th New Delhi World Book Fair
The theme of 2012 New Delhi World Book Fair is “Point of View: An International Rights Exhibition of Books on Indian Cinema”.
booking has started for the New Delhi World Book Fair to be held from
25th Feb-4th March, 2012. Participants can book their space on National
Book Trust site www.nbtindia.org.in
is collecting all inprint and out of print books on Indian cinema and
display during the fair. The fair will enter in their 40th year of
foundation. First being held in 1972, held every alternate year since
Book exports exempted from archaic Act
customs stopped the export of Indian books in May stating The Press and
Registration of Books Act, 1867 which required that every book
published in India should have the name and address of the publisher
printed in it. After hectic meetings with the Director General of
Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Ministry of Finance, the
notification was issued by Ministry of Finance clarifying that export of
books is allowed even in cases where the books do not have the name and
address of publishers or printers. This will really help the printers
to do the work for the International Publishing Industry.
Online Bookshops becoming Popular
current size of the online book market is estimated to be about Rs. 70
crore in annual sales and it is increasing at the rate of 50 per cent
year by year”, said Rahul Sethi, President, E-Commerce, ibibo Web
Private Limited, which launched TradusBooks.In, an online bookstore for
increasing internet penetration, consumer confidence in online retail
as a format is driving this growth. The convenience of shopping online
and the wide choice and attractive prices available online are also
growth drivers”, said Sachin Bansal, CEO and co-founder, Flipkart.Com
an average 10,000-12,000 people shop for books everyday. Most are men
within age-group of 25-35. Almost 50 per cent of the orders come from
the top eight cities and the remaining come from B & C class towns,”
Online book market is steadily growing. We expect the industry to grow
at around 15-20 per cent annually, with online sales doing better than
The Asian Tribune, 29 March, 2011
David Davidar, Rupa launch Aleph
professional, David Davidar and Rupa Publications India, a leading
Indian publisher and distributor, announced in New Delhi that they would
be partnering to start a new literary publishing firm, the Aleph Book
Company. Aleph will be head-quartered in New Delhi.
Davidar said, “I’m thrilled to join hands with Rupa to launch this
venture. We will be looking to ensure that each book we publish makes
its mark and to that end any title that Aleph takes on will be
distinctive, original and of outstanding literary quality. Our books
will be creatively packaged and innovatively marketed through
traditional retail and print outlets as well as digital and online
channels. However, no matter how excellent the editorial and marketing
capabilities of a publishing company, for any book to succeed in India, a
deep understanding of the market and an effective distribution network
are essential. Rupa has an excellent relationship with retailers
nation-wide and its sales and distribution capabilities are unmatched.
It has seven full-fledged sales offices around the country and reaches
deeper into the market than any other distributor and so every Aleph
book and author will have an excellent chance to succeed in this
May 17, 2011
publisher’s functions and responsibilities have expanded a great deal
over the last decade. On the one hand, he has to hold the whole
publishing chain together from conception, commissioning to marketing to
ensure there’s profit which means he must also have a firm grip on the
the new breed of management accountants who have invaded publishing
houses, publishers are being constantly reminded that the game today is
about money, not about books! An academic has no such accountability and
certainly no commercial pressures of the kind that publishers have to
Ravi Vyas, The Telegraph, 29 April, 2011
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