Print News from Round the World

By 22 Nov 2017

This edition of print news includes nine gems from round the world: RBI cuts printing order for new currency notes; Assam CM seeks Rs 1,800 crore for revival of paper mills; Assam booksellers list GST woes; classics in Assamese translation; how to start investing in rare books; how Speaking Tiger Books bringing international fiction to India; Kindle vs physical books; Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan wins Book of the Year; block-printed textiles of India.


RBI cuts printing order for new currency notes as vaults filled with old ones

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has reduced its order for printing currency notes in the current fiscal year to the lowest in five years for lack of space in the currency chests of the central bank and commercial banks, two people familiar with the matter said.

The indent (government jargon for order) for fiscal 2018 now stands at 21 billion pieces of currency, as against 28 billion pieces in the previous year, the two people said on condition of anonymity. The average annual indent for banknotes over the past five years was 25 billion pieces. Experts said last year’s indent was an aberration as RBI had been preparing to introduce a new series of notes. Indeed, actual supply was higher at 29 billion currency notes.

According to a 6 November Mint article, R Gandhi, a former RBI deputy governor, said work on introducing the new series of banknotes was initiated in January 2016.

RBI has partially completed the remonetisation process after having withdrawn old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes rendered invalid on 8 November 2016. According to the latest RBI data, currency in circulation as of 13 October stood at Rs 15.3 trillion, which is just 10% lower than a year ago.

“There is very little space in currency chests and RBI vaults to keep the new notes even after 50-60% of the demonetised notes have been transferred from the chests to RBI,” said a senior executive with a private sector bank who declined to be named.

According to two other people aware of the matter, the lack of space in RBI vaults and currency chests is due to the pile-up of junked Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that returned to the system after demonetisation. The notes are still being counted before being destroyed.

According to a 29 October Press Trust of India report, the central bank is currently in the process of checking the demonetised banknotes using a sophisticated currency verification system. The report said RBI had already processed about 11.34 billion Rs 500 notes and 5.25 billion Rs 1000 notes, totalling some Rs 10.91 trillion. (Courtesy: Live Mint)

Assam CM seeks Rs 1,800 crore for revival of paper mills

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has sought a revival package of Rs 1,800 crore for two paper mills. Sonowal met Union finance minister, Arun Jaitley and sought revival of paper mills of Assam under Hindustan Paper Corporation. Sonowal informed Jaitley that closure of these units have had a cascading affect on the bamboo industry and the entrepreneurs associated with the industry. Seeking the Union Minister’s immediate intervention for a revival package of Rs 1,800 crore, he said that resumption of these units would augur well in employment generation as well as industrial development in Assam.

Sonowal also called on Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu and asked his help to infuse dynamism in Toklai Tea Research Centre at Jorhat. Sonowal also requested Prabhu for introducing a suitable and flexible industrial policy in line with the earlier North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy. He also sought Prabhu’s help in getting an Industrial Policy to incentivise investment before the upcoming Global Investment Summit to be held in February in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consented to inaugurate. (CourtesyThe Economic Times)

Assam booksellers list GST woes

Assam publishers participating in the 19th North East Book Fair held in November said the production cost of books had increased by 10% after imposition of the goods and service tax. It is the first book fair after the Centre imposed the GST. The prices of new editions of many old and popular books have risen compared to earlier editions, they said.

“After imposition of GST, the production cost of a book has increased from 10 to 20%. Ultimately, we have to pay more to the printing press,” Gokul Kalita of BR Publication, a Guwahati-based publication house, said. “The government did not impose any GST on books. The publication business is now hampered by the new tax. The production cost is higher. This has affected the whole business.

Kamal Kumar Medhi of Akhar Prakashan, a city-based publication house, said, “We have to pay 18% GST for multicolourprinting and 5% for general printing. Production cost of a book has increased around 12 %. Every publisher has to increase the price. Overall, the whole business of publication in a small state like Assam was affected.”

The general secretary of All Assam Publishers and Booksellers Association, Dhiraj Goswami, said, “Around 80% of books are now priced over Rs 100. Only some books of earlier editions are priced below Rs 100.” (CourtesyThe Telegraph)

Classics in Assamese translation

Asam Sahitya Sabha has begun translating and publishing around 20 books, written by prominent authors from across the globe, through its translation institute. The Sabha, in June 2015, had formed the Assam Institute of Translation - Asam Sahitya Sabha to translate the best literary works of the world into Assamese. In July this year, the institute published three books - East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Art of War by Sun Tzu and The Stranger by Albert Camus.

A booklet, published by the Sabha, said among the books to be published are selected short stories written between 1700 and 1900 (in four parts), The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple, The Moon and Sixpence and Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham, The Woman of Rome by Alberto Moravia and Ten Thousand Miles Without A Cloud by Sun Shuyun.

Besides, selected Assamese short stories and poems written in the past 100 years will also be published in English.

Sabha president Dhruba Jyoti Borah proposed establishing the translation institute in the Sabha's Kaliabor session in 2015 to create a “silent revolution in Assamese literature”. It began work with Rs 50 lakh donated by the Oil India Limited.

The booklet said the Sabha has been asking for funds from the state government to publish its books. “But barring 2016-17, the state government has never given any funds,” it said.

As the Sabha does not have a printing press, it depends on private publishing houses. It is yet to give more than Rs 15 lakh to different publishing houses to publish its books. The Sabha hopes that once it forms a Rs 10 crore corpus fund, it will be able to overcome its financial problem in publishing books. (Courtesy: The Telegraph)

How to start investing in rare books

If you’re prepared to wait a few decades, collecting first editions can reap big rewards, says Anthony Gardner:

Ian Fleming is a key figure in the world of rare books, and not just because a first edition of Casino Royale can fetch over 100,000 pound. Fleming, who created James Bond, was a serious collector, specialising in books that helped to shape modern thought, and in 1963 lent more than 40 to a landmark exhibition called ‘Printing and the Mind of Man’. “The 650 books in PMM, as it’s known, are the nearest thing there is to a blue-chip investment,” says Bogislav Winner, a London dealer. “They have the strongest record of going up in value, and some people collect them and nothing else.” The range is wide – from Dante’s Divine Comedy and Darwin’s The Origin of Species to Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

“Only a few books have staying power,” explains Winner, “so you have to be incredibly good at choosing them, and you need to hold them for a long time to get a decent return.” A copy of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses dating from 1517, auctioned for 1.1m euros, is a case in point: the owner had kept it for 32 years before cashing in.

The ideal book for a collector or investor is a famous work in a first edition of which only a few copies survive. It needs to be in very good condition: a pristine dust jacket adds enormously to the value, as does the author’s signature and an interesting inscription. Anthony Smith, another London dealer, points to a copy of Brideshead Revisited which sold for 52,000 pound last year at Sotheby’s: “It was one of just 50 printed for Evelyn Waugh’s friends, and because it was inscribed to the Duchess of Devonshire, it fetched three times what it would have done otherwise.” (

How Speaking Tiger Books is bringing international fiction to India

For multinational publishing companies like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, or Hachette, selling international books in India is not a difficult proposition. For they can easily import titles from their parent companies’ lists in the UK and elsewhere. However, for an Indian publisher to have a strong list of international titles is no easy matter. And yet, Speaking Tiger Books has done just that by buying India rights for the works of writers from elsewhere in the world and publishing them in India.Kanishka Gupta asks Renuka Chatterjee, vice-president (publishing) at Speaking Tiger about the company’s strategies and execution.

What was the impetus behind starting such a challenging, unique list of fiction from around the globe?

It started with Beauty is a Wound by the Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan. His agent gave me the book at Frankfurt a couple of years ago – I read it, and thought it was brilliant. Though Indonesian writers had not really been published in India before, we – Ravi Singh, the publisher at Speaking Tiger, and I – didn’t think that was any reason for a good book like this one not to be published here. Then Ravi read Fiston Mujila’s Tram 83, and thought that was worth publishing too, and this set the ball rolling. Once agents abroad knew we were open to international fiction, they started sending us titles, and we picked up whatever we really liked. So it wasn’t so much of a planned thing, but once we had three or four titles, we thought, why not? Let’s do fiction from countries other than the US and the UK, because American and British authors get published here anyway, and make it our USP.

How do you decide whether a particular work of fiction is the right fit for the international fiction series?

Edgier, definitely, and the writing really has to be several cuts above the average. And it definitely helps if the author has been published widely internationally, and won a few awards – because that is the only way to get the book noticed here, to have it picked up by booksellers and reviewers.

How do you go about acquiring such books? Does it require travelling to international book fairs?

No, now that we’ve established contact with the main agencies who handle writers from South-East Asia and other countries like South Africa, the Congo, etc, they keep us abreast of their lists, and we pick out the titles we think will work for us.

Many of the books on the list are set in cultures not familiar to Indians. Do these books require editorial intervention?

Not much, really. I think the whole point of publishing books from other countries and cultures is that we can get to know more about them.

What does the response to the list say about the readership in India?

They need to be much more open-minded and receptive – broaden their vision to accept that writing in English is not just limited to Indian writers, or writers from the West.

How many books to do you plan to publish annually on this list?

Around three or four. We do need to be very selective, as it’s a new segment we’re trying to establish. Our next title is Season of Crimson Blossoms, by the Nigerian writer Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. (

Kindle vs physical books

As Kindle completes 10 years, KumKum Dasgupta writes how Physical books got a makeover to combat competition from ebooks.

The Kindle was launched in the US on November 19, 2007, spearheading a new revolution in digital reading. In 2012, Amazon first made the device available in India. Over the years, publishers of physical books have tried different ways to combat competition from eBooks and to attract new readers — better-looking book covers, special editions, movie tie-in covers, anniversary editions and more.

In 2015, Nielsen, which studies consumer behaviour, came out with a first-of-its-kind report on India’s fragmented book market: The ‘India Book Market Report 2015: Understanding the India Book Market’. It valued the print book market in India, including imports, at USD 3.9 billion, positioning the country among the largest English-language book markets in the world. The sector’s compounded annual growth rate was 20.4% between 2011-12 and 2014-15, thanks to growing literacy rate, the State’s spends on education, digital initiatives, and outsourcing of publishing services to India. Importantly, the report said, that 66% distributors/ retailers feel that the print consumption is growing.

In the UK and US too, physical books are doing brisk business. According to the Pew Research Center, 65% of Americans reported reading a printed book in 2016, compared to only 28% who read an eBook. Data from Britain’s Publishing Association show eBook sales falling to 17% in 2016, with an 8% rise in their physical counterparts.

Publishers are exploring different ways to attract newer audiences, such as releasing special editions of their backlists. “Special editions are done mostly for books that withstand and transcend the test of time,” says Yogesh Sharma, vice-president, sales, and marketing, Bloomsbury India.

On its 30th anniversary in 2016, Bloomsbury’s UK office published special editions of 10 of its prize-winners (The English Patient, Fugitive Pieces and The Song of Achilles) to books that have reinvented a genre (such as Eat Pray Love, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher andJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) to the books that have captured people’s hearts (like The Kite Runner, Snow Falling on Cedars, Restlessor The Little Friend). The publishing house hopes that these ‘Bloomsbury Modern Classics’ with new covers will attract contemporary readers.

Penguin-Random House India (PRHI) turned 30 this year. To celebrate, it unveiled ‘Penguin30’, a selection of India’s brilliant writing including classics such as Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam and Nehru’s An Autobiography, Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate, Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth. The publisher has provided books on the Delhi Metro so that commuters can pick the book and read. “The beauty of these titles lie not just in the text but the distinctive cover design is done up in a sumptuous colour palette,” a press note said. (CourtesyThe Hindustan Times)

Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan wins Book of the Year at Paris Photo Fair 2017

Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan, a stunning, multi-volume, boxed set of nine intimate leporello (printed material folded into an accordion-pleat style) books, has won Book of the Year 2017 at Paris Photo Fair recently. The book is a marriage of photography’s two major formats: book and exhibition. Each enclosed book features a typology of tritone images printed slightly larger than the original 6-by-6 negatives.

Singh conceives of Museum Bhavan as miniature traveling exhibitions—including her series Printing Press Museum, Museum of Vitrines, and Little Ladies Museum. Christoph Wiesner connects the concept to Marcel Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Suitcase), which replicates the artist’s own work as a travelling object; we also find in Singh’s photographs self-referential gestures to the book form and other modes of presentation—images of printing presses and overstuffed library shelves.

“This is an accordion designed small format book that can be put on a shelf. I have finally found the right form and design and I’m happy. I don’t question why I make photographs, the museums let me go back to my archives and pull them out. I work backwards with these museums,” says Dayanita in an interview to Steidl.

Dayanita has been working on Museum Bhavan for the past decade. At the India Art Fair 2014, Dayanita unveiled her File Room Museum, a stunning array of black and white images that virtually elevated to the museum a series of images that reflected everyday realism into an inward-looking metaphor. “These images were choreographed with a similar transition in mind,” she said to this critic, “When I began editing these museums, I decided to go not just by themes, but also tonally.” Interestingly tones were triggered by different sources. A closer look reveals a mini museum can be made to respond to the quality of the weather, or an emotion. “I have always believed contemporary art must adapt itself to the mood of the moment and respond to change,” Singh said. (Courtesy: Architectural Digest)

Block-printed textiles of India

Laila Tyabji, the founder member and chairperson of Dastkar, an NGO working for the revival of traditional crafts in India, writes about Imprints of Culture: Block Printed Textiles of India by Eiluned Edwards and published by Niyogi Books in The Wire:

Our textile traditions owe much to numerous intrepid and indomitable aficionados over the decades who have travelled the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent, falling in love with, documenting and developing our extraordinary skills. A surprising number of these people have been foreigners and women. Starting with Flora Ann Steel and phulkari, whether it is the research of Stella Kramrisch, Rosemary Crill, Susan Bean, Sheila Paine and Vickie C Elson, or the design sensibilities of Faith Singh, Judy Frater, Brigette Singh and Maggie Baxter, their passion and insights have added greatly to what has been done by our own textile gurus: Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, Gira Sarabhai, Pupul Jayakar, Prabha Shah, Nelly Sethna, Jasleen Dhamija, Martand Singh, Jyotindra Jain, Rita Kapur Chishti, Lotika Varadarajan, Aditi Ranjan, Rahul Jain, et al.

Eiluned Edwards, the author of Imprints of Culture: Block Printed Textiles of India, is a name to add to this list. A reader in global cultures of textiles and dress at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, she has been coming to India for decades. Her earlier book, Textiles and Dress of Gujarat (2011), was an invaluable insight into the costume traditions of this craft-rich state.

Block printing is one of India’s oldest forms of surface ornamentation on textile. The Harappans knew how to weave and dye in 2000 BC. Although embroidery, not printing, is mentioned in the Vedas, ornamenting cloth by printing probably followed soon after. Our development of mordants to fix dyes and create different colours, and our varied complex techniques of resist and surface printing, meant that printed Indian fabrics were soon in demand all over the world.

Fragments of ajrakh resist prints dating back over 12 centuries have been found in the Fustat excavations in Egypt, and the “sprigged muslin” worn by Jane Austen’s heroines were our familiar delicate Sanganeri and Farrukhabad floral butis. Aristocratic European 17th and 18th-century interiors were full of the all-over floral kalamkaris of Macchlipatnam, referred to as Chintz. So popular were Indian Chintzes that the French, seeing the impact on their own textile industry, banned their import and sale. Sadly, the advent of roller printing in the 19th century and the British substitution of their own manufactured cotton goods for handwoven Indian ones killed this flourishing international trade. It’s ironic that the wonderful British Raj documentations of Indian hand block prints were intended as design references to be duplicated mechanically by British manufacturers. Equally ironic, these records, stored in British museums, now serve in their turn as inspiration for 21st-century Indian block printers.

What I love about this wonderful book is that it is all about “people and processes”, as Edwards says in her introduction. So many similar books have pages of gorgeous museum pieces, but no information on who, how, where or what is happening in these craft areas now. That only works for a coffee table book. This book is not just full of the voices and stories of craftspeople, it also tracks the impact of government policies, NGOs, designers and retailers in the sector, encompassing the Handicrafts Board and Gurjari, the Crafts Councils, Anokhi and FabIndia, and Sabyasaachi. There is even Dastkar.

All craft history is a composite of the social, cultural, economic, aesthetic and technical. This volume has it all – the influences of caste, region, gender and location that help preserve skills within regions and families, the effect of government and NGO livelihood schemes that have drawn in women and others outside the community who did not traditionally practice the craft, thus increasing numbers but also diluting quality and integrity. Then there are changes that the use of computers, smartphones and WhatsApp have made possible. The potential and perils of a growing but fickle consumer base. The fact that block printing is marketed as “green”, but seldom addresses the issue of toxic chemicals and water pollution. (CourtesyThe Wire)



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