The Mad, Mad World of Print: Snippets from Around India

Away from the spotlight of big businesses, technology innovations and market predictions, this regular column brings you the stories of print from the fringes. Print is everywhere and every new experiment takes us closer to this journey we have embarked upon together – the journey to the world of print

17 Feb 2016 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

Dayanita Singh creates photo-architecture
Now that every one of us has a camera in our smartphones, and that we constantly click pictures, what separates us from photography artists? The word would be perspective (for one thing, they do not take selfies!). In case of Dayanita Singh, who has published 12 photography books, what makes her special is her ability to conjure up a world beyond the still image. This is evident in her new photo exhibition, ‘Conversation Chambers: Museum Bhavan’, currently on display at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Delhi.

Not just the pictures, what defies expectation are how they are structured. Singh’s Museum Bhavan are conceived as mutable structures with extendable limbs that are self-sufficient assemblies designed to display, preserve, and store her photographs. The artist physically maneuvers these flexible structures to transform into facades, columns, doors, niches, and empty scaffolds, altering their orientation and position in relation to the exhibition space. In this, the viewer’s vantage point is unsettled and always vulnerable, with Singh expanding the possibilities of composing, viewing, and interpreting images in endless ways.

The exhibition contains three ‘museums’. ‘Museum of Little Ladies 1961 - Present 2013’ containing one large structure, nine small structures, 93 framed photographs, and one framed text piece. ‘Museum of Chance 2013’ contains two large structures, 15 small structures, four stools and four tables, 120 framed photographs, and five framed text pieces. ‘Museum of Furniture 2013’ contains one large structure, five small structures, 80 framed photographs, and one framed text piece.

‘Conversation Chambers: Museum Bhavan’ will be on display at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Saket, New Delhi until June. PrintWeek India strongly recommends a visit.

Reprint of Dr Ambedkar’s works in copyright trouble
The legacy of Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar remains in the eye of the storm. The recent controversies apart, now the publication of Dr Ambedkar’s collected works is in jeopardy as Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar has refused to allow printing of the original collected works in English. The Central government had a grand plan to print the original collected works of BR Ambedkar as part of his 125th birth anniversary celebrations.

Prakash Ambedkar, who has the copyright for Dr Ambedkar’s original collected works written in English and Marathi, has been embroiled in a copyright battle with the Maharashtra government for several years. The Maharashtra government had entered into an agreement with Prakash Ambedkar to publish Sampoorn Dandmay (the collected works of Dr Ambedkar) but the agreement lapsed in the 1990s. Even while trying to settle differences with Prakash Ambedkar, the Maharashtra government had allowed the Ambedkar Foundation under the Union social justice and empowerment ministry to re-publish copies of the collected works in 2013. About 1,000 copies were printed before it was stopped in 2014, after the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material Publication Committee raised objections to Maharashtra granting permission to the Centre.

Prakash Ambedkar recently told reporters, “Since I hold the copyright, it’s only for me to decide whether or not to give the copyright. I have not given rights to anyone (right now). They are doing anti-Ambedkarite work...”

According to reports, the Centre has repeatedly sought permission to print the complete works of Ambedkar since September 2014 from the Maharashtra government. In all likelihood, if the Centre does not receive the permission, it would have to wait until January 2017, when Dr Ambedkar’s collected works would be free of copyright constraints.

The Copyright Act puts the term of copyright at 60 years from the beginning of the calendar year after the year of the death of the author. Dr Ambedkar passed away on December 6, 1956, and the copyright constraints would apply until December this year.

More titles, more copies for Indian papers
In not so distant past, it was an all too real concern that the rising tide of internet, social media, smartphone and apps will eat into the traditional newspaper market, even if they do not make it obsolete. The New Year put the fear to rest for once and all, after the annual report of the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) announced a 13% increase in claimed circulation. The increase was almost 60 million (to 510.52 million) in the number of copies per publishing day in 2014-15.

In short, as of 2015, there are 105,443 registered publications in the country. Of these, almost 15,000 are newspapers.

The majority of the publications are in Hindi (42,493), followed by English (13,661). Not just publication, Hindi trumped in claimed circulations as well, with 257.76 million copies. English publications sold 62.66 million of English, and 41.27 million of Urdu publications.

The 59th Annual Report on print media, titled ‘Press in India 2014-15’, prepared and compiled by the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI), is available online, and the next time someone talks to you about the imminent doom of newspapers in India, point him towards this.

Education and the government driving publishing
Sometimes an outsider point of view can help better explain the dynamics of the market. During the New Delhi World Book Fair in January, Publisher’s Weekly, the news magazine on the international book publishing business, often called the ‘bible of the book business’, ran a story saying that Indian publishing market is being driven by education and the government.   

As the magazine pointed out, India’s higher education institutions receive substantial government funding, which is now focused on acquiring electronic resources. Unfortunately, the lack of information on the timing of disbursement, application, and allocation of the funding often creates confusion.

There are challenges. One among them is open access. One particular regulation is being considered that would make research freely available with much shorter embargo periods than in the western world, said the article. It is aimed at government-funded institutions and therefore affects 95% of Indian institutions. Another yet-to-be-enacted regulation requires publishers to sell journals at lower prices to all government-funded institutions. However, according to Publisher’s Weekly, what worries overseas publishers more is the rampant piracy and lack of copyright awareness.

Trade publishing, which accounts for only 30% of the Indian book market, has its own challenges (and opportunities). Piracy is common, and often, bestselling trade paperbacks have their sales cut in half by pirated editions, said the magazines. Ebooks have yet to find a strong foothold; this was made loud and clear when Flipkart decided to stop selling eBooks in December.

Remembering Gutenberg’s Bible
Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398 – February 3, 1468), a German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer, and publisher, introduced the mechanical movable type printing to Europe, and ‘the most important invention of the second millennium’ changed the face of printing forever, leading to Renaissance and beyond. And, all Gutenberg wanted was to print The Bible.

Excerpts from The Gutenberg Bible, considered to be the ‘single most important and famous printed book’, was on display at an exhibition titled ‘From Manuscript to Movable Type: The Information Shift that Brought about Modern Learning,’ was on display at the Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University from 1-12 February 2016.

The Gutenberg Bible is the first major book printed using mass-produced movable type, which marked the beginning of the ‘Gutenberg Revolution’ and the age of the printed book in the West. Written in Latin, the Catholic Gutenberg Bible is an edition of the Vulgate, printed by Gutenberg, in Mainz, Germany, in the 1450s. Forty-eight copies, or substantial portions of copies, survive, and they are considered to be among the most valuable books in the world, even though no complete copy has been sold since 1978.

‘Platographic Expressions’ to promote printmaking
While Indian art is going from strength to strength, its relegated cousin, the art of printmaking, is being neglected more than ever. To ameliorate the situation, and to raise funds for a one-stop printmaking studio, Mumbai-based 71-year-old artist, teacher and printmaker, Kashinath Salve recently mounted an exhibition, featuring works of 111 Indian artists, titled ‘Platographic Expressions’.

The exhibition was on display at Jehangir Art Gallery from 12-28 January 2016. The portfolio project included the works of some top artists of India, including Akbar Padamsee, Arpana Caur, Ganesh Holoi, Gieve Patel, Jyoti Bhatt, KG Subramaniyan, Krishen Khanna, Lalitha Lajmi, Nirmalendu Das, Satish Gujral, Sudhir Patwardhan and Thota Vaikuntam. Salve and the International Creative Art Centre (ICAC), which curated the exhibition, also compiled a coffee table book-cum-portfolio on printmaking.

Salve said, with funds generated from the sale of these prints, he hoped to create a space where all types of printmaking facilities are available under one roof. “It can become a space where printmaking artists can pursue the art, whether etching, lithography, serigraphy, platography or digital imaging,” he said.

Schoolbooks recovered at junk dealer’s shop in Bihar
State-sponsored printing and distribution of textbooks have an uncanny ability to get into news, for all the wrong reasons. First, there was news about misinformation being printed in school textbooks in different states. Then there was the delay in printing textbooks in Kerala. Now, this.

The Bihar police recently sealed a junk dealer and storehouse at Minapur village in Vaishali district after finding a stock of Bihar Education Project Council’s (Bihar Shiksha Pariyojana) sealed books there. The books, from classes II to X, and the bags, in which they were wrapped, carried a stamp of the Patna Printing Press.

The police have also taken into custody a man in connection with the case. “It is not possible to find sealed books at a junk dealer’s shop, as every village in each district is allotted only a specific number of books in proportion to the number of kids. Therefore, if sealed books are lying at a junk shop, it means students didn’t receive their books or the number of students wasn't counted accurately,” a police official said.

Bena Sareen receives first Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize
Designer Bena Sareen was awarded the first ‘Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize’ during Jaipur BookMark, the books and publishing segment of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, on 22 January 2016. Sareen received the award for her work on the cover of the book Talking of Justice by Leila Seth, published by Aleph. The award was instituted in March 2015.

The prize appreciates the balance of graphics and narrative, particularly in our increasingly visual age, and believes that a book cover interprets and decodes the ensuing text in crucial ways that contribute to its ultimate success.

The selected covers from the longlist, the shortlist as well as the winning entry are on display at the Mandi House Metro Station in Delhi until March. PrintWeek India recommends a dekko.

Forty years of Kolkata Book Fair
Talking about books and fairs it would be unfair to miss Kolkata International Book Fair, popularly known as ‘boi mela’. The Fair runs for 12 days from the end of January to the second Sunday of February. In its 40th year this year, the Fair has seen various ups and downs, including a devastating fire (the fair was back and running in three days though one person died of a heart attack and over 100,000 books were destroyed), a major shift in venue, rains and so on. Over the years, the boi mela has become important part of the city’s social and cultural calendar.

Besides the regular features, the highlight of 40th Kolkata International Book Fair was West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who released 10 books written by her. The books are on a wide-ranging subjects, from delivery of good governance to ‘return of peace’ in the Darjeeling hills or partially Maoist controlled Junglemahal area. She has also penned a book on ‘intolerance’, while rest of the books are for the children. Banerjee has written more than 60 books over the last few decades.

There was also an installation depicting the ‘historic achievements’ of the 39-year-old fair, organised by the Publishers & Booksellers Guild. The installation showcased the founding of the Guild at the Coffee House of Kolkata.