Sterling Publishers


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.
This 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, UAE.

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.


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?
The 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.
The Director 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 years.

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?
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.
Recently, our 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 best market?
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 comments.
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 change).
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?
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 full-time secretary.

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 interest.

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.


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


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.
Contact: Mr. Fabio Lima, Translation Support Coordinator Phone:+55-21-2220-1987 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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 Fair.
Contact: Mr. Mansur Bassit, Executive Director Phone:+55-11-3069-1300 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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.
Contact: Ms. Lis Castelliano, Executive Director Phone:+55-21-2533-0399 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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.
Contact: Ms. Beatriz Grellet, Executive Manager Phone:+55-11-3666-2801 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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.
Contact: Mr. Dalton Morato, Executive Manager Phone:+55-11-5052-5965 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Brazilian Association of University Presses
Associagdo Brasileira de Editoras Universitdrias
Brings together the top university presses in Brazil, many related to public universities.
Contact: Mr. Jose Castilho, President
Phone:+55-11-3242-7171 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Brazilian League of Publishers
Liga Brasileira de Editoras
Over 100 independent publishers belong to this association, representing small- and medium-sized publishers in Brazil.
Contact: Mr. Haroldo Ceravolo, President
Phone:+55-11-5084-8202 Email: haroldo@alamedaeditorial.
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.
Contact: Ms. Dolores Manzano, Executive Manager Phone:+55-11-3069-1300 Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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