The future of books and more at Publishing Next 2016

The seventh edition of the annual Publishing Next conference was held on 15-17 September 2016 at the Bolgatty Palace and Island Resort, Kochi. Unlike the earlier editions of the conference held in Goa, this year, the three-day Publishing Next was a bigger and better affair, and featured new formats such as masterclasses and specially curated networking sessions.

28 Sep 2016 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

The agenda covered topics that are of concern to publishers, with special attention to translations in Indian languages; technologies that affect publishing, such as customer analytics and digital publishing; and, trends that are seen in the publishing business today, such as advances in the dissemination of higher education content.

As part of the event, the Publishing Next Industry Awards were presented in seven categories.

Over the years, Publishing Next has earned a reputation for its efforts towards capturing trends and building awareness about new technologies and business practices in printing and publishing. These have been useful for large and small publishers alike. This year, too, a large section of small publishers, many of them publishing in Indian languages, attended the conference.


The first day of the conference was especially reserved for masterclasses. These were introduced in this edition of the conference to cater to the needs of publishers and authors, who had, during past conferences, requested longer workshop-like sessions to help them understand specific areas of publishing. The conference featured four such masterclasses, each of three-hour duration.

Publishing 101: This masterclass, conducted by Ritu Menon, founder of Women Unlimited, an associate of Kali, spelt out the publishing process for the audience. Different streams of publishing were discussed, as was the process involved in creating, marketing and selling a book.

After Writing, What Next? Jayapriya Vasudevan, a partner at Books@Jacaranda, a Bangalore-based literary agency, conducted this session. In her presentation, Jayapriya impressed upon the authors the need to write well and pitch appropriately, so that the publishers, who have to choose between thousands of submissions, are interested in the book pitched before them. The role of the agent was also discussed.

The Mechanics of Editing: This masterclass, conducted by Esha Beteille, publisher, Social Science Press, catered to the requirements of both authors and publishers. The masterclass addressed the role of the commissioning and copy editor, the importance of retaining the author’s tone and voice, and provided them with examples of how different types of texts ought to be edited.

Understanding Copyright and the Rights Trade: Manasi Subramaniam, commissioning editor and rights manager at HarperCollins India, conducted this session. In her presentation, she explained the various types of rights that are sold, underlined the importance of a well-developed catalogue, and the processes and contracts inherent to trading of rights.

Workshops, panel discussions, networking

The conference was formally inaugurated on 16 September. Chief guest for the inaugural function, Dr Thomas Isaac, minister of finance, Government of Kerala, lamented the fact that the growth in production of books in India far lagged behind the country’s growth in GDP. That there was a spurt in production during the last few years was a source of encouragement, he said, although there was much that needed to be done. He spoke of the Writer’s Association and the library movement in Kerala as examples of how the government could intervene to ensure that more students and readers could get access to books.


In his keynote address, scholar, editor-publisher, translator, lexicographer and publisher, Thema, Samik Bandhyopadhyay stated that bookstores had a major role to play in developing a love for reading among neo-literates. Bookstores, he said, allowed people to touch and feel books, discover titles they probably never had heard of, and develop an attachment with a tangible object. Online buying robbed people of the joy of buying a book, he stated. He gave an instance of a young bookseller in West Bengal, who despite an absence of physical space for a bookshop, catered to the reading needs of his village by carefully choosing books based on what his customers liked reading. Bandhyopadhyay also spoke about the need to develop the craft of editing. He said editing in many companies was being mechanised and that boded ill not only for the art of editing but also for the development of the book itself.

Welcoming those present at the conference, Leonard Fernandes, co-founder of the Publishing Next spoke of the conference as platform where there could be discussion of both the challenges as also the threats facing publishing today. He hoped that participants would use this platform and develop the skills and business associations they needed to further their businesses.

The sessions on Day Two included workshops, panel discussions, conversations and a specially curated networking session. In the first panel discussion of the day, titled ‘Translations: Market and Profession’, the speakers underlined the need for publishers to be more proactive about the texts that were being translated. This session was chaired by Mini Krishnan, editor, OUP, and the panel consisted of Chandan Gowda, translator and professor, School of Development, Azim Premji University ; J Devika, translator, researcher and teacher at Centre for Development Studies, Kerala; Minakshi Thakur, publisher (Hindi) and senior commissioning editor at HarperCollins Publishers India; and Rakhshanda Jalil, writer, critic and literary historian. The concern among certain quarters that many translations did not prove good returns on investment was voiced during the discussion. A member of the audience pointed out that there were many progressive thoughts “hidden” within Indian language texts that ought to be translated into English. The need to publish translations that, for instance, developed a new school of thought in sociology that was grounded in Indian texts and philosophy, and balance that with the publishers’ need to receive an appropriate return on investment was discussed.

In his conversation with Leela Samson, dancer, choreographer, instructor and writer, and Vidhya Rao, singer, author and consulting editor, Orient Blackswan, Ganesh Devy, chairman of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, discussed issues related to dance, music and publishing during what was a very enjoyable conversation. The importance of ‘being in the moment’ was discussed, as was the need to perfect one’s craft, and the need to be true to oneself.

In a similar freewheeling discussion with Ritu Menon, publisher, Women Unlimited, the author and poet, Shafi Shauq, spoke about his work, which he described as cathartic, given his experiences as a resident of Kashmir.

There were also two workshops on Day Two. In his presentation on ‘Accounting for Publishers,’ Nirjay Singh, associate partner at Orbit Law Services, explained the various aspects of accounting as they applied to the publishing trade, while Swapnil Nesarkar, principal consultant at Corona Tech Consulting , discussed how customer behaviour can be analysed in his workshop on ‘Understanding & Using Consumer Data.’

The last session of the day involved specially curated networking sessions. Conducted for the first time, 30 participants attended these sessions.

The second day culminated with the presentation of the Publishing Next Industry Awards. These Awards, instituted in 2014, were presented in seven categories – Printed Book of the Year; Printed Children’s Book of the Year; Digital Book of the Year; Book Cover of the Year; Printed Book (Indian Languages) of the Year; Bookstore of the Year and Publisher of the Year.

Speaking on the occasion, the chief guest, A Sethumadhavan, Sahitya Akademi award winning author and ex-chairman, NBT, India, spoke of the need to encourage reading in the country. He illustrated the example of the libraries in Kerala that encouraged reading habits even in far-flung places of the state.

Where Must We Invest Next?

The third day of the conference opened with the session ‘Where Must We Invest Next?’ during which the speakers tried to pinpoint one or two areas of focus that would help publishers grow their businesses. Sriram Subramanya, founder, managing director and CEO, Integra Software Services, spoke on the advances in digital publishing and publishing workflow models that made publishers more efficient. He admitted that these models were yet to find ground in India and expressed the hope that they would soon be adopted here. Sesh Seshadri, director and general manager, Lonely Planet India, and managing partner, Overleaf Books LLP, while asking the audience to embrace technology and use it to their advantage, advocated the need to develop a common marketplace for Indian language books. Samik Bandhyopadhyay, publisher, Thema, while speaking for Bangla publishers, advocated the need for a “bookshop culture” that will encourage reading among those who have recently received an education and wish to expand their horizons. In the absence of any algorithms to understand what they wished to read, books of all kinds had to be made available to them. The book fair, he said, was an important step in this direction, and even helped booksellers and publishers tremendously. K Satyanarayan, co-founder, New Horizon Media, who chaired this session, said it was the duty of publishers to understand what readers wanted to read.

The panel discussion on book retail, titled ‘Imagining Book Retail and Distribution’ was chaired by Ankit Pahwa, vendor manager, India at Rakuten Kobo, and had Allwyn Pais, proprietor of Amit Book Corporation; Anish Chandy, business development and sales at Juggernaut Books; Neeraj Chawla, GM, operations and strategy,; and Vidya Virkar, managing partner, Strand Book Stall, as panelists. The panel identified bottlenecks in publishing and identified online buying habits as probably the single major factor that is unravelling physical book sales.

In their discussion titled ‘Higher Education Publishing: Challenges and Opportunities’, the panel comprising of Ranjan Kaul, editorial and publishing consultant, who also moderated the discussion; Gopal Devanahalli, senior vice-president, Manipal Global Education; Rohit Kumar, founder and CEO at Guiding Star Digital; and Viplav Baxi, director, product and digital transformation, OUP, discussed the impact of new technology-aided methods of instruction that were being used today and how these could be co-opted into the business models of traditional publishers in the higher educational sector. The speakers focused on the need to have a multi-pronged approach to higher education as ‘learners were no longer looking for [just] one medium of interaction.’

On the day there were two conversations related to the publishing industry. In his conversation with Prashasti Rastogi, director, German Book Office, New Delhi, Ravi Singh, publishing director, Speaking Tiger, spoke about his initiation into publishing, how he would never label any genre as untouchable, yet would never compromise on the language and quality of books as is sometimes now done with popular mass fiction, and his belief that far from being in a crisis, the Indian publishing industry was flourishing with equal space afforded for both Indian language and English books. He said it did not make sense to differentiate between Indian language and English publishing, the latter also being an Indian language, and that publishers should rather concentrate on making good books.


The other conversation was between Makenzy Orcel, the Haitian author, and Leonard Fernandes, co-founder of Publishing Next, with Dorothee Gieux of the French Book Office and the Embassy of France in India as interpreter. Orcel, whose book Les Immortelles, is being published in English in India, spoke at length on the role of the author in society. He said that he did not feel it was his duty to assume the role of an activist and bring out change in society, rather to tell stories and let his readers interpret them the way they want.

The only workshop of the day, on Digital Publishing, conducted by Harald Henzler, founder and managing director of smartdigits, Munich, and Fabian Kern, managing director, digital publishing competence, Munich , was aimed at professionals wishing to extend their knowledge of how to manage digital products and eProjects.

Publishing Next Industry Awards

These Awards, instituted in 2014, were presented in seven categories.

Bookstore of the Year Award

Walking Bookfairs for “making visiting a bookshop and selling books exciting, and for taking books right where they belong ‐ to the people in the streets.”

Runner Up

The Full Circle Bookstore (Greater Kailash, New Delhi)

Printed Children’s Book of the Year Award

Book of Beasts: An A to Z Rhyming Bestiary, published by Duckbill Books, for “being a great example of how to make complex information, known by experts in a field, more accessible to beginners, and a book of verse that makes you want to find an audience, any audience, and start reciting to them.”

Runner Up

Eye Spy Indian Art, published by Takshila Publication.

Publisher of the Year Award

Yoda Press for “consistently pushing the envelope of what a publisher should do, allowing its authors a unique freedom of expression, displaying an immense appetite for innovation, and merging impact into its very philosophy.”

Runner Up

Pratham Books

Printed Book of the Year Award

Narratives for Indian Modernity: The Aesthetic of Brij Mohan Anand, published by HarperCollins Publishers, for “a well written, elaborately documented, lavishly illustrated, and extremely well produced book; one learns so much of contemporary art (and even media) history going through its pages.”

Runner Up

Picturing Time: The Greatest Photographs of Raghu Rai, published by Aleph Book Company

Book Cover of the Year Award

Pinaki De, for the cover of the book Kalkatta, published by Pan Macmillan India, for “a striking, arresting cover visual and effective use of colours to set the mood; the cover is a wonderful example of great design, impact and art.”

Runner Up

Priya Kuriyan, for the cover of the book Monster Garden, published by Duckbill Books.

Digital Book of the Year Award

Jadav and the TreePlace, published by Pratham Books, for “an inspiring tale and an inspiring mode of delivery of content. The use of Creative Commons License for the content and use of a community writing platform are certainly worth emulating for other creators of content for children.”

Runner Up

Roomies/Foodies: Fun ’n Easy Cooking for Desi Students Abroad, published by Bloody Good Book.

Printed Book (Indian Language) of the Year Award

Hoshiarpur Aur Anya Kavitayein, published by Copper Coin, for “an exquisitely designed and produced book that does justice to the genre; a book that easily stands out as a standard bearer for craftsmanship in book design.”

Runner Up

Chitkulya Chinkiche Vishal Vishv, published by Learning Spheres.

Tags : Publishing Next;