Sterling Publishers
Vol. 3 No. 3 February 2009

Franchise India Conference
Award from the Central Hindi Directorate
International Kolkata Book Fair re-establishes at Milan Mela
Premier Bookshop, Bangalore, closes
Book Expo Canada Closes
Rupa recognizes author
Google Book Search
Professional Publishing in Asia 2009
Translator's Conference
Second Intensive Course on Editing
Asian Publishing Convention (APC)
Nineteenth World Book Fair 2010
7th IPA Copyright Symposium, Abu Dhabi, March 2010

Dear Publishing Professionals,

I hope you have enjoyed the dawn of 2009. January was an eventful and important month for the publishing industry in India for various reasons. In this month sixty years ago Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation who got us freedom from the British, was shot dead. This, in turn has brought the thought provoking literary works of Mahatma Gandhi in the public domain. Anyone will now be able to publish the writings and speeches of the legendary leader. Mahatma Gandhi pioneered the philosophy of nonviolence through which he made the British hand over the reins of India back to its citizens. Till now, Navjivan Trust, Gandhigram was the custodian of all his works and was publishing them. As per the Indian Copyright Law any publisher can now publish any of his works without obtaining the permission of the Trust. So there will be a lot of new opportunities for all of us.

Four years ago, British Council, India, had initiated the award for Young Publishing Entrepreneur in association with Oxford Book Store. This year I was in the jury along with Mandira Sen, Stree Publications; S.Anand, Navayana Publishing; and Debanjan Chakrabarti, Head, Intercultural Dialogue, British Council. We interviewed five shortlisted candidates and unanimously selected Mr. Nishad Deshmukh as the Indian finalist for the International Young Publishing Entrepreneur (IYPE) 2009 award. A graduate from Pune University in Pharmaceutical Science, Nishad worked in marketing for a few years before becoming an entrepreneur. A first generation publisher, Nishad’s quest to fulfill the demand for science reference books by Indian authors made him launch Career Publications in the year 2000. He began single handedly with a meager capital of Rs.5,000, and a space under 80 feet. Today he has 150 titles in print, operates with 42 employees in a 2700 sq. ft. office with branches in Pune and Delhi. We all felt that Nishad has identified a gap in the market, founded a company in Nashik that is now engaged in business with international publishers in the field and has the potential to represent India at the IYPE 2009 at the London Book Fair.

The month also saw the happening Jaipur Literary Festival, the most successful event in the literary circle, widely covered by the media–electronic and print. Hardly was there a newspaper/magazine worth the name that did not write about this festival being held 300 km from Delhi. The festival was very well planned by Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple, and it is fast turning into Asia’s biggest event attended by international writers and publishers. Book lovers and students came to hear authors—Vikram Seth, Pico Iyer, Hari Kunzru, Nandan Nilekani, Vikas Swaroop of Slumdog fame and many more. To top it all, Amitabh Bachchan dropped by to launch Osian’s Bachchanalia: The Films & Memorabilia of Amitabh Bachchan. Mr. Sanjoy Roy, MD of Teamwork Productions felt that the idea was to create a really sexy festival and he is fully satisfied with the turn of events.

This month will feature a write up on the professional who gave birth to Ladybird Books that revolutionized children’s publishing in the world.

Douglas Keen

Businessman whose Ladybird Books revolutionised children’s publishing

Douglas Keen, the driving spirit behind Ladybird Books, was a publishing visionary and an inspired businessman. In the years following the Second World War, under his editorial direction, the series of children’s books became a household name. The Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme alone sold 85 million copies, making Keen an important figure in promoting children’s literacy.

Keen was born in Cheltenham in 1913. His father was a market gardener who left the family while his son was still a small boy and Douglas’s mother then worked as a home-based dressmaker to support them. For the rest of his life, Keen valued education as a way out of poverty. He won a scholarship to Pate’s Grammar School, Cheltenham, and went on to study commercial art at evening classes. This led to a job in advertising as a sign-writer.

In 1936, at the age of 23, Keen moved to Wills & Hepworth, a printing firm based in Loughborough that produced catalogues in the West Midlands and whose clients included the car manufacturers Austin and Rover. It also published a small stock of children’s books; they were printed on cheap paper and were produced mainly to use up “machine time” between larger commercial commissions.

In 1940 Keen was called up to the RAF. He worked with a mobile radar unit throughout the war. In 1946, he returned to work for Wills & Hepworth, in the firm’s Birmingham office. From 1941, the firm had begun to experiment with children’s fiction and picture books in a small format that was easy for young readers to manage on their own. But these early “Ladybirds”, cheaply printed on one sheet of paper, were operating in a market that had never been properly analysed. Keen visited shops and schools over a wide area and concluded that while books to be read for pleasure always aimed to look as attractive as possible, educational books, with their soft covers and dreary two-colour line illustrations, lagged behind.

And so it was that Keen hit upon the idea of producing short, lavishly illustrated, properly researched, hard-cover factual books on approachable subjects, small enough to fit into a child’s Christmas stocking. Unable to convince his managers, he went ahead with his own mock-up of British Birds and their Nests to demonstrate what he had in mind. He wrote the text and the book was illustrated with water-colours by his mother-in-law, a trained artist, and drawings by his wife, Margaret, whom he had married in 1941.

The prototype won over Wills & Hepworth’s chairman, Jim Clegg, and Keen was given the go-ahead for the book. He commissioned Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald to provide the text and Allen Seaby the pictures. The result was a 52-page book with 24 full-page colour illustrations; its cover showed a kingfisher in full plumage perched on a branch. The final version of British Birds and their Nests appeared in 1953 and sales were excellent; a second print-run of 50,000 followed almost immediately and the great days of Ladybird Books had arrived.

The books all featured clear technical drawings and human-interest pictures in which characters appeared, often in a state of eye-popping excitement at what they were seeing. Wingfield, who became Keen’s chief illustrator, was responsible for 65 titles and also worked on books for younger children, including Shopping with Mother and an ABC. His pictures of affectionate parents, beaming children and courteous tradesmen, all living in pristine middle-class environments, are collectors’ items, sometimes selling for as much as £1,500.

Wingfield also illustrated the Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme. This was prompted by an article in The Teacher by William Murray, an educationist who was convinced that early reading material should concentrate on the 100 most common words in the English language. Keen commissioned Murray to write 36 texts devised according to his theories.

Published in 1964, the books were accompanied by illustrations featuring Peter and Jane, the permanently smiling junior inhabitants of an idealised suburbia. Wingfield’s tree-lined streets continued to feature cheery milkmen and kindly policemen as a backdrop to a cosy domestic life made possible by the presence of a smartly dressed young mother, contentedly at home with her children, with an equally jovial daddy coming back from work at six o’clock. The books were a huge success and led to Keen being invited to join Wills & Hepworth’s board of directors.

From then on the Ladybird brand was unassailable. One title, The Computer, was used by the Ministry of Defence to introduce its employees to higher technology. The same organisation later bought multiple copies of Understanding Maps to provide help with orienteering for the British Army during the Falklands War.

How it Works – The Motor Car was acquired in large quantities by the Thames Valley police force, again for internal consumption. Other titles on subjects such as gas or the water supply, in “The Public Services” series, were made interesting by a mixture of historical background and details on how each service worked at present. Dramatic accompanying pictures by John Berry were, like many other Ladybird illustrations, often copied directly from photographs.

Keen worked mainly from home in an extension added to the back of his purpose-built house in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where he and a part-time secretary for some time constituted the entirety of the Ladybird editorial department. With his wife Margaret, who regularly corrected the proofs and with whom he enjoyed a supremely happy marriage, he established a warm atmosphere much appreciated by the artists he commissioned, who often became personal friends and occasional holiday companions. Meetings held at his home invariably included lunch supplied by Margaret and would finish with a visit to the local pub, along with attendant sub-editors and the studio manager.

In 1973, when sales of Ladybird Books had reached around 20 million copies a year, Wills & Hepworth was taken over by Longman Pearson. Keen left the company and found himself out of sympathy with editorial changes that then took place.

The books lost their distinctive typography and illustrative style, and Peter and Jane were re-invented in jeans and sweatshirts, but Keen dissociated himself from all such re-branding. Living quietly at home, with easy access first to five grandchildren and then to two great-grandchildren, Keen remained a much-loved figure both within his own family and among those with whom he had worked so successfully over many years.


Franchise India Conference
The Conference was held in Dec. 2008 in New Delhi and proved to be a rich mine of knowledge for the Franchise, Retail and Licensing industry. In today’s dynamic environment it provided a space of interaction for brand owners/managers, licensing experts and manufacturers. The two day conference had many sessions with an action oriented approach on conducting business. It also hosted the first ever Brand Licensing Conference in India, with licensing gaining a stronger foothold in the country and being used as a tool for business expansion and visibility.

Award from the Central Hindi Directorate
The Central Hindi Directorate, Department of Higher Education, is awarding the Siksha Puraskar (2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008). There is provision of 5 Awards of the value of rupees One Lakh each every year for the books originally written in Hindi on educational subjects such as Language Teaching, Moral Education, Environmental Science, Law, Political Science, Medical Science, Science & Technology and other subjects. Books published between January, 2000 and 2007 and containing at least 200 pages shall be considered. The applications should reach before the end of the first week of March. Manuscripts, text books, translated books and theses shall not be considered under the scheme.

International Kolkata Book Fair re-establishes at Milan Mela
The 33rd International Kolkata Book Fair, 2009 was held from 28th January to 8th February. Organised by the Kolkata Booksellers and Publishers Guild, the fair saw a footfall of almost a lakh people a day, in its first year at the new venue, Milan Mela. The theme country this year is the beautiful island country, Scotland. The annual fair not only witnesses good trading but also provides a platform to little known magazines and budding authors. This year the best stall award was received by Rupa & Co.

Premier Bookshop, Bangalore, closes
For 37 years, Mr. Shanbagh’s, Premier Bookshop located on the small stretch of road connecting Church Street and MG road has been the favourite haunt of booklovers across Bangalore. However, the lease of the building has run out and the owner of the building wants Mr. Shanbagh to move out in order to make way for other, more lucrative business propositions. With the exorbitant rents, and the generous discounts he is known to offer, Mr. Shanbagh feels that the bookshop will no longer be a commercially feasible option. The closing of the shop would be the passing of an era.

Book Expo Canada Closes
Following the defection of many of the country’s largest publishers due to the economic meltdown and financial crises as well as a growing number of independent publishing houses, Reed Exhibitions, Canada, has closed the annual publishing trade event Book Expo Canada.

Rupa recognizes author
Dr. Rima Hooja, author of A History of Rajasthan was awarded the Publishers Recognition Award, instituted by Rupa & Co. The award was presented at the Rupa Book Exhibition in Jaipur. It is a recognition received by Rupa’s authors each year for making an outstanding contribution to the Indian literary scene.

Google Book Search
From its inception, Google, the search engine, has optimized internet searches, becoming indispensable for those looking for any information on the internet. One may easily find specific books on With book search, the search engine, shows book results at the top of the web search results page, when a query suggests that a person maybe interested in books. This way, even though a person may not know that a certain book exists, one will stumble upon it on Google.

The Google Books Partner Program benefits online retailers/publishers by making books visible and increasing sales. The retailer/publisher may earn through direct sale from their website as well as ads placed through Google AdWords. The digitization of the submitted book by Google ensures that it turns up when searched but no part of it can be copied, saved or printed, thus protecting content from misuse.

More than 300 top Indian publishers have already signed namely - McGraw-Hill Education, Motilal Banarsidas, Abhinav, UBSPD, Pustak Mahal, PHI Learning, Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers, Sterling Publishers, Roli and many more. You can sign up with Google by sending an email to Abhishek Jain ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

Professional Publishing in Asia 2009

The German Book Office (GBO) New Delhi will organize the conference on Professional Publishing in Asia (PPA) on 27th February 2009 at New Delhi. The theme of the conference is Global: Local. The conference will focus on how International publishers are making inroads into the local market and Indian publishers are exploring world markets and going multinational. Indian publishers take on the challenges of globalization as large conglomerates threaten to decimate them, while the conglomerates face distribution and other problems. India, the ‘localized Globality’ is witnessing a ‘cross current of the multinational getting globalized and the local going global’. (Entry by invitation).

Translator’s Conference

The Indian Translators Association jointly with Linguaindia Foundation will be organising a conference on April 17-18, 2009. The theme for the conference is ‘Language and Translation of India: Opportunities and Challenges’. It will be attended by a wide range of people from translation service providers to publishers to diplomats and will focus on terminology management and professional practices in context of translation and translation services in India. For more information, log on to:

Second Intensive Course on Editing

A six-day intensive programme for editors will be organised by Institute of Book Publishing from 3-10 June, 2009. The course will be held at India International Centre, New Delhi. The last date for applying is 30th April 2009. For details visit:

Asian Publishing Convention (APC)

The 3rd annual Asian Publishing Convention (APC) will be held on 16th and 17th July at Makati, Phillipines. The Convention will focus on how to ‘hold on to your bottom line’, in these times of recession. More than 40 experts from all over the world will converge to make this a profitable venture, as they delineate ‘the many opportunities that hard times bring’. The agenda will include the profitable use of digital technology, advertising, expansion of paid audience, creation of a niche and efficient delivery of targeted online content. For more information, log on to

Nineteenth World Book Fair 2010

The biennial event will be held from 30th January to 7th February at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The New Delhi World Book Fair is the largest book event in the Afro-Asian region. It has acquired a distinct reputation among the international book publishing industry in terms of size and volume. The Republic of Germany will be the Guest of Honour country.

7th IPA Copyright Symposium, Abu Dhabi, March 2010

The IPA Copyright Symposium will take place in Abu Dhabi on 28 February - 1st March 2010, and will coincide with Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (2-7 March 2010). For details:

Mary Therese Kurkalang has joined as Marketing and Sales manager at German Book Office (GBO), New Delhi from 1st February 2009. She started her career as a fundraiser for various NGOs and moved on to work with publishing media and cultural management. Among others, Mary has worked with Full Circle Publishing, Random House India, Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi, Pro Helvetia-Swiss Arts Council.

I have seen your report on the KIBF held in December,2008.

It is true to the extent that only three persons came to the Fair from India. But it is untrue that most of the Indian Publishers did not participate.

It is customary from the First KIBF that all Indian publishers display and participate, in the fair, with the cooperation of a local importer. So it is not compulsory for a publisher to be present personally during the fair.

This year also almost all major publishers of India had their stalls in the KIBF. Yes it is true that all those who come regularly to attend it personally did not come because of the political upheaval and tension after the Mumbai attacks.

But those who came, were very excited and the man from UBS can be asked how he loved being here as he thoroughly enjoyed his stay and saw the phenomenal success of KIBF.

So far, this year's Book fair was the most successful and being part of the managing committee I am most pleased with the response of book lovers,which is becoming better and better every year.

Ahson Jaffri, Managing Director
Say Publishing (Pvt) Ltd., Karachi, Pakistan

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