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A new chapter in Indian publishing

Team YS
19th Sep 2011
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Publishing Next

PublishingNext, organized by CinnamonTeal, throws interesting insightsIt's important to get to talk. What would have bothered publishing professionals in their living rooms (perhaps working rooms), in their office corners and in their private conversations with peers got a conferential dimension with the hosting of PublishingNext, the conclave organized by CinnamonTeal Publishing, a self-publishing platform, at Goa on 16 and 17 September 2011. The theme of the conference 'the next chapter in publishing' was keenly watched for its outcome. Leonard Fernandes' hospitality stood out apart from the significant takeaways from the two-day power-packed sessions. Leonard, the founder of CinnamonTeal Publishing, is the brain behind the conference, ably supported by British Council and Jaya Bhattarchji Rose, an independent consultant in Indian publishing.

So, what did the conference deliberate upon? There were sessions on where are the digital books headed? how can you market your books using social media, future of independent publishing, copyright issues inIndia, translation market and how would publishing houses shape in the future. So it has come a full circle, of all issues that are of contemporary relevance to Indian publishing, that you were afraid to talk but got talking at Goa. It only needed someone to take the initiative to put together some thought on the Indian publishing scenario and what are the drivers of the market. Leonard did take the first baby steps in that direction. Apart from the panelist-debated sessions, workshops on academic writing and social media marketing were also part of the two-day discussions. Facilitated by the British Council, entrepreneurs from India and UK also talked about the future technologies that help reach the market in absence of a supply chain. Some are really futuristic that we could call it a fancy for now. These entrepreneurs are winners of the British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur awards this year in India and the UK.

Jaya Bhattacharji opines that what drives the market in the developed and saturated markets need not be taken as an indication of what drives the Indian market. The gamut of issues are different in the Indian scenario. Sunil Patki, an independent consultant and founder of NotJustPublishing, felt that still the editorial drives what should be published and not the sales team, although not in all publishing houses. Mandira Sen, an independent publisher, saw publishing as driven by quality and knowledge and not based on financial considerations. Ulhas Latkar, an independent publisher in Marathi and English, lamented that the retail book sellers are not paying attention to their titles and as a result, distribution is a huge bottleneck.

James Bridle, a publisher from the UK on transgressive literature, pointed out to the pitfalls of self-publishing with the proliferation of errors of all sorts in the final copy. While the panel of digital books was gung-ho about digital taking a larger cake in the market in the future, Ramu Ramanathan, founder of PrintWeek, felt that print still is going very very very strong in India. Even the future of publishing houses debate led by Nilanjana Roy spared a considerable thought on how we are headed digital.


Are we getting social enough as a publisher, especially given distribution bottlenecks? Social Media—as Jessie Paul calls it no money marketing (author of No Money Marketing)—could help the publisher reach their consumer base directly and engage with them. Still it is debatable if that engagement would end up charting up your sales figures. But still as some case studies from Tara Books, Pratham Books and Tulika Books showed in the session on social media marketing workshop, these are viable avenues through which publishers can derive a huge market benefit.

Indian language publishing at least seems to have lost a bit of its sheen. Gone are the days where every language had a best-selling author of fiction books. In Tamil, especially as I know, there doesn't exist any writer of best-selling calibre now. So the Indian language market seems to be more driven by translating English best-sellers into the Indian languages. Harry Potter of the Hindi version sold more than the English version. What happened to original writing? Probably it got buried under commercial interests of retailers. Still Blaft from Chennai is able to sell a best-seller of Tamil translated into English. Arshia Sattar, who translated from Sanskrit to English, and Arunava Sinha, who translated from Bengali to English, joined various Indian language publishers in looking at what would shape the translation market. Arunava Sinha had a streak of the old in him and was against generating an army of translators through training. It just doesn't happen that way. But as Sathya Narayanan of New Horizon Media pointed out, issues apart, there exist readers for language books but it is the lack of quality material that is the problem.


Publishing Next

Copyright issues loom large on publishers, especially with the latest amendment to the Copyright Act in 2010. A debate ensued, with Pranesh Prakash taking extreme views on how copyright laws are draconian to stifle artistic freedom. Still other voices in the debate were not as strong as that of Pranesh.YourStory will bring session updates soon.

Goa, the place of exotic beaches and foreign visitor attraction, provided a fulfilling experience to all the delegates of the conference. The small team at CinnamonTeal should be congratulated on its meticulous planning, with Leonard in attendance at the airport to receive guests. Even the complimentary bags were tagged with names of delegates. Plans of travel and transport were announced clearly in advance. The guests were taken care of as if you would arrive at a friend's place, except that you had to get into a conference and talk about publishing and not escape to see the Portuguese architecture or the line of beaches dotting north Goa.

PublishingNext is surely the first step in the next chapter of publishing or it heralded a new chapter in Indian publishing, with free debate on contemporary issues.

—Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist 

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