|Vol. 7 No. 1-2, December-January 2013
|Dear Publishing Professional,
Wish you a Happy New Year 2013.
With this issue Publishing Today has entered the seventh year. It was started in December 2006.
The year gone by has seen many developments which are unprecedented. S.
Chand taking over Vikas Publishing House, Harper Collins breaking the
arrangement with India Today group and Penguin and Random House joining
hands at the International level. This shows the consolidation of the
industry. National Book Trust India, associating itself with Calcutta
University & B. R. Ambedkar University for developing P.G diploma
courses from the new session. New Delhi World Book fair being made
annual from this year rather than a biannual event, 4th edition of
Globalocal by GBO in a New Format and New Delhi World Book Fair Rights
event programme on 2-3 February before the world book fair.
time I interviewed Mr Vijith Yapa, President elect of Sri Lanka
Publishers Association, who came to India on a multipurpose tasks- with
IBP for the 25th Condensed Course for Publishing Professionals, to
release his latest book and for fulfilling his old commitment to visit
Nagaland. He is a friend of the Indian Publishing Industry, will
co-publish any good book on South Asia, has 12 retail Bookshops in Sri
Lanka and expanding. I am sure you will enjoying reading the interview
as I enjoyed interviewing.
S.K. Ghai, CMD of Sterling Publishers receiving the award from His
Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Ruler of Sharjah,
I have included information about the Brazilian publishing industry,
hopefully it will be helpful to you as Brazil is going to be the Guest
of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2013. This is the second country
after India to be Guest of honour twice at the FBF. Moreover if you want
to publish a Brazilian author , you can get a subsidy for the
translation as well.
I will include the information about the
Turkish publishing Industry in my next issue as it will be a focus
country at London Book Fair 2013.
For the first time Indian Book
WINNING IS EVERYTHING: A 10 Step Guide for Sure Shot Success by Deepak
Behl (Sterling publication ) was selected at Sharjah Book Fair 2012 as
the best foreign business book of the year award.
|ONE TO ONE WITH VIJITHA YAPA
A warm welcome to India, your second home. This is your second book
launch in 2012 in New Delhi and your fifth visit this year. We have high
respect for you as an active, publishing professional and we always
think of you as an important colleague.
SKG How important do you consider a book release / launch for the promotion of the book or author?
launch/ release of a book are very important for both publisher and
author as it gives them an opportunity to publicize the book to the
media, TV, and radio. Book launches can also bring the book to the
attention of the author’s friends and relatives. You know that I was the
founder editor of three national newspapers in Sri Lanka. So, I have a
lot of friends who have worked with me in the media. At one point, I was
appointed by the Minister of Media to serve in the government panel to
recommend the salary revisions for journalists. SKG You were an editor of a newspaper before. How did you come to be involved in it? Share your experience.
I was Media Manager for the Sri Lanka Board of Investment of the
Government of Sri Lanka from 1979 to 1981, Then Dow Jones Inc. USA
approached me to become their representative for their products. As I
could not accept a private job while being employed by the Government I
resigned from the government job in April, 1981.
General of the Board of Investment was a well known businessman who
wanted to start a daily newspaper and requested me to become the editor.
I was not too keen on the job and to put him off, suggested a three
times hike in salary compared to what the editor of the government paper
was getting, as well as a car with a chauffeur, with no limit on petrol
consumption and three months paid leave. He agreed and thus, I became
the founder editor of The Island. We had the best production standards
of those times, with computer typesetting and superior colour
technology, while the other newspapers were printed on hot metal and
mostly in single colour. I worked there for five years (1981-1986). In
late 1986, I started work as founder editor of the Sunday Times. SKG Why did you change your career from journalism to starting a bookshop?
In the Sunday Times, we had a confidential political column and its
writer was not disclosed. People waited anxiously for that column and
our readership and circulation increased due to that column. The writer,
Lasantha Wickrematunge, brought the hand written copy to my home on
Saturday morning and my wife, Lalana, typed it so that no one knew the
identity of the writer.
Soon after President Ranasinghe Premadasa
came to power, the hotly debated topic of the moment was who were going
to be included in his cabinet. The President wanted to demote two of his
senior colleagues, Lalith Athulathmudali, Minister of Defense and
Gamini Dissanaike who was Minister of Mahaveli (dam and river).
Development. They had also been serious contenders for the post, but
President J.R. Jayawardene chose Premadasa.
Premadasa, after winning
the elections, asked his very good friend Sirisena Cooray, to help to
form the cabinet who refused saying, “I don›t want to cut other people’s
necks.” This story was published in our newspaper and Premadasa was
very furious over this. The publisher and I were attacked publicly. He
accused us of trying to create differences between him and Mr. Cooray. A
few weeks later, the publisher asked me to suspend that column. It was a
direct editorial interference, which I never tolerate. So I resigned
and said good bye to journalism.Incidentally, Lassantha went on to start
his own newspaper and was killed by 5 gunmen about 2 years ago.. His
death remains a mystery.
My wife was at that time, importing
newspapers and magazines for distribution but we did not have any retail
outlet. So we thought over it and started a bookshop in 1991. The
business increased and now we have 12 bookshops in the country.
SKG How many new books are published in Sri Lanka, in English, Sinhala
and Tamil, in a year? How many are published by Vijitha Yapa?
We publish about 20 new titles in English every year. Roughly 500 new
titles are published in the three languages every year in Sri Lanka. We
are the leading publishers in English. We print all titles in Sri Lanka
to show to the world that we can produce quality books, except for
co-publications due to competitive pricing on larger print runs. We are
well known for quality, high editorial standards and for setting new
trends in publications and have won a number of book awards. SKG Where are you placed in the publishing Industry of Sri Lanka?
I am currently the vice president of the Sri Lanka Book Publishers
Association and was the president, Booksellers Association for six
SKG When global publishing is moving towards digital and online, you
are still opening new bookshops every year. How do you see the future of
book publishing in Sri Lanka?
Digital publishing is fine for developed countries but for developing
countries, it is not an easy task. Western publishers give us generous
discounts as we make bulk purchases with no facility for returns. Rates
for downloading data in Sri Lanka are still expensive and so are
computers. Electricity supply is also expensive and computer literacy is
still low. The prices of printed books in developing countries are half
of what they are in the developed countries. E-books are not a major
threat to printed books at this stage. It will change, but not
immediately. SKG Where do you want to see Vijitha Yapa in 2017?
We would like to modernize all our bookshops and make them
service-oriented, with in-house coffee available for the customers. We
have already started renovating a few of them. I would also like to have
‘Kiddies corners’ keeping space constraint in mind.
SKG You publish and co-publish in all genres and for all segments. Do share your experience?
We co-publish with OUP, CUP, Sage, Sterling, Penguin, Dolphin books on
Sri Lanka, but we are also quality-conscious and join hands on all books
which have a sale potential in Sri Lanka. If it is a quality book, we
are always ready to co-publish. As we have a retail network, we publish
& co-publish in all genres. Sri Lanka has a literacy rate 95 per
cent. Education is free for all from KG to University. The government
supplies free books, meals and milk as well as transport at subsidized
rates to all students in public schools. SKG Do you feel that a publisher should have strong presence in the retail segment to be successful in publishing?
VY I certainly think so. Then we are not dependent on other booksellers and can fulfill the demand.
SKG Share about your early life before coming into the book industry.
My father was a farmer and chairman of the village council. We were a
large family of 7 brothers and 2 sisters. My father insisted that all
his children should have their early education in the village so that we
do not forget our roots and I shared a desk with my father’s peon’s
son in the school. Our village was in a remote part of the country and
even today there isn’t even a name board for the village. I was
shifted to a boarding school in the hills by the third standard. I was
an outcast in the school for not knowing English and called Godaya (a
village rustic). A class mate taught me English while sitting in a
washroom late at night. Later on, I got distinctions in English
Literature but I still don’t know grammar well. I can correct a sentence
but I can’t explain why it should be corrected.
family donated a building and a computer lab with 20 computers to our
village school to show our gratitude for that early start and as a
commitment to social upliftment. Two of my brothers, unfortunately,
have passed away. The next brother is a publisher of a monthly newspaper
and has written a book on the Tea Industry in Sri Lanka. The other
three are settled in the US, UK and Canada. My youngest brother is
working with Barnes and Nobles in California, USA and his wife, who
used to be a deputy librarian at the University of Colombo, is now a
distributor of Sri Lankan books in the US.
SKG How is your family helping you in the business?
I have two sons. The eldest, Daminda, who had his university education
at the Glasgow School of Art, is now a director of an Architecture
firm in Oman. He has helped us modernize our bookshops. Peshan, the
younger son, is being trained to take over the business.
We feel that there is a tremendous future for stationery and allied products as these cannot be downloaded from computers.
Foreigners who come to Sri Lanka also post many postcards back home as
postage fees are low in Sri Lanka and my wife and I have taken pictures
and produced over 200 post cards.
SKG Do you export your books alone or those of other publishers too?
How do you find the export market for Sri Lankan books and which is your
We export our company’s books, along with other Sri Lankan books to the
USA and UK. In the US, my sister-in-law looks after the marketing. We
also participate in the New Delhi World Book Fair and the London Book
Fair and try to market Sri Lankan books.
SKG I see that the Sri Lankan government, diplomats and High
Commissions give a regular helping hand to the book industry. Your
Wherever we participate, the Sri Lankan diplomats come and inaugurate
the stall to give encouragement to us. Sometimes, they host dinners for
the visiting delegation. Just recently, the Sri Lanka High
Commissioner in India released our book and later on, hosted a dinner
for selected persons.
Any headmaster, principal or school students
visiting the Sri Lanka President’s House will get a gift set of 30 books
for the library. The Education department has given grants to schools
to buy books at the Colombo International Book Fair (CIBF). They also
give transport and encourage students to buy books to develop libraries.
The book industry in turn, is benefited by these gestures.
SKG I learnt that you had your training as a journalist in India.
I had my training in journalism under two distinguished journalists-
Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and Russi Lala, whose
books on the Tatas are well known. I also worked very closely with
Neerja Chowdhury of the Indian Express and Kalpana Sharma of Hindu. We
worked together in Himmat, the weekly newspaper by MRA (initiative of
On this trip, I am going to visit Nagaland to assist with a
leadership programme for future leaders of India and the world. We are
expecting about 60 participants from 13 countries and they have
requested me to give the inaugural address and be the co-coordinator for
the leadership programme.
Why am I going to Nagaland? I would like
to share an incident which happened in 1967, outside India Coffee house
in Connaught place. My Naga friend, Niketu Iralu, a nephew of Naga
leader, Phizo and I were distributing leaflets for a MRA programme. A
person approached and taunted my friend, saying, “Why are you Chinese
distributing leaflets in Delhi?” This made him very annoyed but Niketu
kept his cool. He put out his hand and said, “I am so glad to meet a
Pakistani in Delhi”. That was courage and I told him that one day I
will visit him in Kohima. At that time going to Nagaland was not easy
due to many official restrictions. Now, I can go.
SKG How you can find time to attend every important event in the publishing industry?
Basically, publishing and information sharing is a part of my life.
So I enjoy meeting people and this gives me opportunities. There are
also very few books written by Sri Lankans. Many of the books written on
Sri Lanka’s politics are written by Indians, from the Indian view
point. So, I want to encourage Sri Lankans to write, publish them with
excellent editorial standards and production quality and put these
books on the map of the world. Had we not been involved in war for 30
years, we would have been a different nation today. I believe a great
future lies in front of us.
SKG The quality of your books is excellent, comparable with
international standards. How you find the time to look into each aspect?
VY If you do not produce books of quality, why publish books?
SKG How many staff members do you have in Vijitha Yapa Publishing and Bookselling?
The Vijitha Yapa group is involved in publishing, bookselling,
retailing, public relations and media matters. At present, we have staff
strength of 150.
SKG I recently learnt that Sri Lanka hosted APPA this year. How important and useful was it?
Yes, we hosted the Asian Pacific Publishers Association AGM in
November, and we elected Mr. Eric Yang the CEO of Random House, Korea,
as President, and he has a lot of plans for the Association in 2013.Till
now, APPA activities have been restricted to holding an AGM but from
now onwards, it will participate in the major book fairs in the region
and display books of member countries. Titles in local languages will
be encouraged to be translated. Five vice Presidents were also elected
and Sri Lanka is among them. The absence of India and Pakistan was
felt acutely and it was decided that extra efforts should be made to
bring them back into the fold. East Timor was admitted as a new member.
It was decided to establish a permanent secretariat in Thailand with a
SKG Tell us your routine on a typical day.
Normally I get up at 6 am, go for a morning walk and on return, have a
cup of tea and read the newspapers. I reach office by 9 am and come
back by 6 pm.
SKG How often you visit your bookshops?
Not as much as I would like to. In 2012, we hired an Indian company,
Logic soft, to develop an IT programme for us, which we have recently
introduced. Its excellent. It tells us which books are selling, when we
bought them and at what price etc so that we can plan ahead. We also
have a very aggressive on line website and presence on Amazon and
dispatch all orders within 24 hours.
SKG Which titles you are working on these days?
We are working on a number of books and recently, we published a book,
The Illustrated History of Sri Lanka which has become a best seller.
The book weighs 4 kilos. We have also published other books filled with
photographs mainly aimed at tourists visiting the country. We are now
in the final stages of a book on ‘Ravana’, which will bring out many
facts unknown to the public. It is based on an ancient Ola leaf
manuscript which has been unearthed recently.
SKG What would you consider a good book?
The purpose of a book is to educate and inform, unless it is a book of
fiction, in which case the plot must be intriguing and create
SKG What are your hobbies?
Photography, writing a book reviews once a month for the Lanka Monthly
digest and of course agriculture. We have a tea plantation of 50 acres
and Alana looks after a 5 acre coconut plantation.
SKG I am sure you like reading. How often do you read and have you kept
aside any particular time for reading? What are you reading these days?
I read regularly and there is no particular time. I am currently
reading ‘Miracles Happen: The transformational Healing power of Past
Life memories’ by Dr Brian Weiss (Hay House). It is a real life story
of his experiences with rebirth, how it affects us and shapes the way we
live. It teaches us not to hate. Its similar to the Jataka stories of
the Buddha›s many lives and there is much to learn about ourselves. His
basic message is not how much we can get but how to use what we have.
BRAZIL BY THE NUMBERS
Statistics on Brazil’s publishing industry in 2011 from the Brazilian Book Chamber and Pro-Livro Institute.
Size of the publishing market
Total revenue of the publishing industry: $2,576 billion Market size at
Consumer values: $3,312 billion Government purchases: $739 million
Breakdown of publishing revenues in 2011
Government share: 28.7% K-12 share: 53.2% Bookstore and distributors:
57.5% Alternative markets: 13.8% Digital sales: less than 1%
Number of titles and publishers
Total copies of books sold: 470 million
New titles launched : 20,405
Number of active publishers: around 600
Buying and reading books in Brazil
Bookstores: around 1,000
Points of sale for books: around 5,000
Newspaper kiosks that sell books: 30,000
Book readers: 88.2 million people
People who read books in English: 6.2 million
People who read books in Spanish: 4.4 mi
CONTACTS YOU NEED TO HAVE IN BRAZILIAN PUBLISHING
International Center for Books at the Brazilian National Library
Centro International do Livro na Fundacao Biblioteca National
Manages federal translation support programs and offers guidance to international publishers. www.bn.br/translationgrants
Contact: Mr. Fabio Lima, Translation Support Coordinator Phone:+55-21-2220-1987 Email:
Brazilian Book Chamber
Cdmara Brasileira do Livro
Main national association of book publishers, booksellers and
distributors, based in Sao Paulo, also organizes the Sao Paulo Book
Contact: Mr. Mansur Bassit, Executive Director Phone:+55-11-3069-1300 Email:
Book Publishers National Union
Sindicato Nacional dos Editores de Livro Book publishers union in Brazil, based in Rio de Janeiro; organizes the Rio de Janeiro Book Fair. www.snel.org.br
Contact: Ms. Lis Castelliano, Executive Director Phone:+55-21-2533-0399 Email:
Associacao Brasileira de Editores de Livros Escolares
Association of Brazil’s largest K-12 educational publishers; very strong and active organization based in Sao Paulo. www.abrelivros.org.br
Contact: Ms. Beatriz Grellet, Executive Manager Phone:+55-11-3666-2801 Email:
Brazilian Association of Reprographic Rights
Associagdo Brasileira de Direitos Reprogrdficos
Brings publishers together to fight book piracy and offer legal alternatives; founders of the Pasta do Professor project. www.abdr.org.br
Contact: Mr. Dalton Morato, Executive Manager Phone:+55-11-5052-5965 Email:
Brazilian Association of University Presses
Associagdo Brasileira de Editoras Universitdrias
Brings together the top university presses in Brazil, many related to public universities. www.abeu.org.br
Contact: Mr. Jose Castilho, President
Brazilian League of Publishers
Liga Brasileira de Editoras
Over 100 independent publishers belong to this association, representing small- and medium-sized publishers in Brazil. www.libre.org.br
Contact: Mr. Haroldo Ceravolo, President
Phone:+55-11-5084-8202 Email: haroldo@alamedaeditorial. com.br
Brazilian Publishers Project
The Brazilian Publishers Project, an agreement between the Brazilian
Book Chamber and the Brazilian Trade Investment Promotion Agency
(Apex-Brasil), promotes the Brazilian publishing industry in the
global market. www.brazilianpublishers.com.br
Contact: Ms. Dolores Manzano, Executive Manager Phone:+55-11-3069-1300 Email:
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