Confessions of the written word

Tanvi Parekh attends a two-day publishing conference, which featured panel discussions, 'how-to' workshops and knowledge sharing sessions conducted by known names of the industry in India and from overseas, all celebrating the book.

15 Oct 2014 | By Tanvi Parekh

There was little you wanted to miss when ‘all those who matter’ discussed and debated about books in the making. These were authors to copy editors to typesetters to printers to publishers.
Talking about books, in all its avatars, novel, novella, hardbound editions and ebooks.

All this took place at the Publishing Next conference held in the Goa State Central Library on 19-20 September 2014.


“India is a country of oral languages, whereas printed words give languages a stature higher than that of others. We need to capture the wisdom of oral languages which otherwise may be lost,” said Ganesh Devy, literary scholar, cultural activist, and the chairman of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, who has put to script 11 languages which existed only in the oral tradition. 

While Devy, in his keynote address, highlighted the extinction of indigenous languages in India and around the world (4,000 known languages in the world is estimated to disappear by the end of the century), a panel discussed challenges faced in regional language publishing, especially in Konkani, Telugu, Kannada and Assamese.


Publishing Next Industry Awards

For the first time in their five editions, Publishing Next announced the Industry Awards across five categories. The awards, according to the organisers, were introduced to recognise the innovation and leadership in the book trade segment across all Indian languages.
"In the next edition, we are looking at incorporating more categories and reaching out to a larger number of participants," said Leonard Fernandes. 
The jury for the Awards consisted of Naresh Fernandes, writer, and editor of; Rakesh Khanna, co-founder of Blaft Publications; Bipin Shah, publisher of Mapin Publishing; Prashasti Rastogi, director of German Book Office, New Delhi; R Sriram, co-founder of Crossword Bookstores, retail management consultant; and, Ramu Ramanathan, group editor of Haymarket Media (India).
The winners are…
Publisher of the Year Tulika Publishers, Chennai
Publishing Innovation of the Year Pratham Books
Bookstore of the Year Literati, Calangute (Goa)
Printed Book of the Year Project Cinema (Tulika Books, New Delhi)
Digital Book of the Year Too Much Noise (Pratham Books)
Analogies: Print and Publishing
Vinutha Mallya, of LineSpace Consulting, a publishing advisory based in Bengaluru, in her opening address, said, “The publishing segment is not recognised as an industry by the government, even when it is guesstimated to be worth Rs 14,000 crore.”
These are the guesstimates. Manas Saikia, founding publisher of Cambridge University Press India, and now publisher of Feel Books, says, “There is no data capture for the publishing industry, which makes it difficult to gauge the trends and the size of industry.”
Right now, the publishing industry, with the penetration of self-publishers and self-publishing platforms, is encountering the problem of surplus. While there is a lot of ‘content’ out there, traditional publishers voice the fear of mediocre literature / content filling the book space. 
Then there are the increasing numbers of e-books. Vivek R, head of business development for trade books,, said, “At present, e-Book sales account only 3–9% of the combined book sales but the growth of e-book sales is on a steady rise, close to 30% year-on-year.  
The panel discussion on e-publishing saw Karthika V K of HarperCollins India; Ananth Padmanabhan of Penguin Random House; and K Srinivas of Pearson Education, shed light on their strategies to adopt and adapt this new consumption mode.
The way ahead
The question looming ahead, for the publishing industry is innovation in terms of content presentation – through multiple channels and in ways that engage the reader. A first step towards this is, collaborating at a greater level with the author and the printer. 
A panel discussed the demand for books in current times, the strategies publishers adopt to be able to keep books visible and the printing technologies that are available.
Said Gamyanth Shren of Glo Digital Press, “With print, there are a lot of possibilities that can be introduced to the text, both for a fiction and an art book. Additionally, the publishers need to look at the POD (print-on-demand) model and thus gain profitability. In India, we have jumped from the long-run publishing to the e-book format, without exploring the possibilities of the POD model.”
The publishing industry is exploring newer avatars and the print industry is sure to benefit from this.

Propagating the Print-On-Demand model

A  workshop titled, Face-to-Face: Printers and Publishers, was intended to bring the two spectrum of the book production together. On board were three printers; Prasad Deshprabhu of New Vision Imaging, N Sreekumar of Bhavish Graphics and SansRack and Gamyanth Shren of Glo Digital Press.
The three brought on the table, print solutions to the publishers’ woes about "lack of print quality and low innovation". Sreekumar of Bhavish went a step ahead to say ‘Let any book not die’. His newest venture, SansRack, is a content distribution channel that is striving to revive the titles from the publishers’ stable, which are non-bestsellers and have a smaller demand. All this through the book (print) on demand.
“A publisher is hesitant to print titles which do not make it to the top-selling list. The reasons are two; investment in warehouse facilities, and speculation about wastage and sales numbers. At SansRack, we believe that every book will have a taker and a print solution is the only way to revive the printed word.”
While the concept sounds only aspirational, Sreekumar assures it is ‘workable and profitable’. 
“We take the files of the back-list and out-of-print titles from publishers and store it on our secure servers. We make these titles available for our sales network of e-commerce portals and bookstores. If an order is placed, we print as little as one copy and deliver it to the end customer. Publishers can also order POD copies of these titles for their own fulfilment needs. We even offer to scan the publishers back list titles as they are doubtful about its sales potential.”
Why will a publisher be keen? He says, “For the publisher, gaining some is better than making none. Instead of the consumer being turned away with ‘not available’, they can say an aye on both aspects, the sale and the client’s loyalty.” “Furthermore,” he adds, “the publisher can procure the content at any point he wants and that is when we charge him for the content management service.”
Bhavish Graphics extends its POD services to Indian self-publishers like,, and Cinnamon Teal among others.