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

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, Associations

13 Apr 2016 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

How 400 journalists ‘broke’ the Panama Papers story

Talking about Panama Papers, you already know the numbers, who evaded how much tax and so on. What is more interesting, however, is the story how it reached the newspapers in the first place.

Panama Papers are actually internal documents, a whole bunch of them, 11.5 million, which were leaked from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, by an unknown source, not for money, but he wanted to do the right thing.

If you are still uncertain about the size of the document, the papers contain 2.6 terabytes of data spanning over 40 years. To compare, they are several times larger than the combined information of US diplomatic cables leaked to Wikileaks in 2010, the intelligence documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013, the Luxembourg tax files leaked in 2014 and the HSBC files leaked last year.

When Wolfgang Krach, editor-in-chief of Süddeutsche Zeitung received the papers, he knew instantly, the newspaper could not do it alone. For one thing, the papers named people from all over the world. He decided to involve the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The ICIJ, in turn, built the data infrastructure and put together an international team of nearly 400 journalists from more than 100 publications across 80 countries to work on the database. 

The team took extra security precautions. It was a leak after all, and any outlet would have loved to ‘break’ the news. All communications took place on encrypted channels. The global team met twice – once in Washington DC and once in Munich – to discuss the research and further hammer out the schedule for publication of reports.

In India, The Indian Express took the cudgels against the high-profile Indians, from films to politics to business, naming names, including the name of a paper tycoon, Gautam Thapar.


An eclectic spread @ Penguin India Spring Fever

For booklovers in Delhi, spring comes with Penguin India’s annual Spring Fever, featuring discussion and authors from the publishing behemoth’s new roaster of releases. The year, the open-for- all event took place at India Habitat Centre from 15 to 20 March 2016. There was something for everyone, from serious discussion on history from the likes of Ramachandra Guha and Sunil Khilani, to former-President APJ Abdul Kalam’s teachings to Bollywood actors discussing a range of topics, from acting to feminism to cancer to health, to the mesmerising poetry of the incomparable Gulzar.

The most interesting part of the event was the open-air library, where visitors could browse through the books from among 5,000 titles published by Penguin and Random House.

Historian and writer Ramachandra Guha opened the festival with a preview of his forthcoming book, a collection of essays called Democrats and Dissenters. Guha talked about the paradox that while India is the “most interesting country in the world,” we know so little about its contemporary history. He said there have been three great democratic revolutions – the French, the American and the Indian revolutions. While the Indian revolution maybe the most important, it is the least written about. This might be because it is the most recent and that it occurred in a continent, which is not known for being a “beacon of liberty and freedom.”

Khilnani, on the other hand, presented his new book Incarnations. The book explores 50 lives across 2,500 years of Indian history – from the “moral preoccupations” of the Buddha to the “capitalistic” energy of Dhirubai Ambani, via famous, and not-so-famous, monarchs, artists, writers, thinkers, leaders, and freedom fighters. “One of my criteria for inclusion [of these characters],” Khilnani said, “was the light old lives might shed on urgent issues of the present.”

Championing the fact that India has always been a “messily hybrid, multi-ethnic, multi-religious place, where identity, the social order and religious convictions have always been in flux and open to challenge”, the author eloquently added, “What has driven India forward is the role of individual dissent!”

The show-stealer, as usual, was Gulzar on the last day. “Books trained me to read and be busy. There is nothing like reading books to spend quality time,” the poet and filmmaker said, adding, “A book has many layers. It opens up to its reader layer by layer!”

Delving into those early days when, as a young man, he used to spend his time reading books, Gulzar recounted: “My family had a shop. I was supposed to manage it. I would go to the shop and would sleep there during the night. There wasn’t much to do. It was then that I came to know of a bookshop whose owner used to lend out books. I used to borrow books, read them voraciously, and come back the next morning to borrow another. Confused and irritated, the bookshop owner gave me very thick book this time, in the hope that I would take many days to complete it and wouldn’t be back to bother him. That book was The Gardener, by Rabindranath Tagore. It changed my life!”


British Library announces two centuries of Indian Print  

We are little late with the news, but better late than never. On 12 November 2015, the British Library announced a pilot project for a major digitisation initiative – Two Centuries of Indian Print, where, with the support of funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council through the Newton Fund, it would make 200,000 pages of historic books printed in India available online.

The project marks the start of a major programme to share the wealth of Indian printed books held by the British Library dating from 1714 to 1914. The collection, which spans at least 22 South Asian languages and millions of pages, is the most significant held anywhere outside the subcontinent.

Many of the books are unique and many are in delicate condition due to their age. So, the mass digitisation of these items will not only make them widely available to people around the world, but will also help preserve the fragile originals for future generations.

The pilot project will digitise 1,000 books in Bengali, amounting to 200,000 pages, as well as enhancing the catalogue records of more than 2,000 titles to automate searching and aid discovery by researchers. Also planned are major engagement initiatives to stimulate digital scholarship and collaboration, as well as building skills and digital research capacity with partner institutions in India.

“It is the mission of the British Library to make the vast intellectual and cultural resources we hold accessible to anyone, anywhere,” said Roly Keating, the library’s chief executive. “By digitising some of the riches held in our South Asian printed collections, we want to enable people all over the world to appreciate India’s great cultural heritage in new and innovative ways. In India itself, the National Virtual library of India is ushering in a new era for digital research – this exciting project will make more than a million pages of historic content available to researchers in the subcontinent.”

The pilot project will be in partnership with School of Cultural Texts and Records (SCTR) of Jadavpur University, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, and the Library at SOAS University of London, working with the National Library of India, the National Mission on Libraries, and other institutions in India.


Jeffrey Archer on piracy

Jeffrey Archer is back in news again. His new novel came out about a month back. The latest from his ongoing Clifton Chronicles saga, Cometh the Hour, has a particular India interest. The cover features a picture of a couple riding a motorcycle with the Gateway of India at the background. Not just that, it also has a very India-specific subplot, which prompted one reviewer to call the novel more Bollywood than a Bollywood movie.

It’s true. Check this out. Our hero, a prominent banker and the scion of a rich family, falls in love with a poor and beautiful Indian girl, like they do in Bollywood movies. He is so much in love that he follows her to India. Hence, the cover. But, the hero’s rich and bourgeois mother would not make an Indian girl her bahu. So the brouhaha.

Anyway, perhaps to promote the book in India, or perhaps out of genuine concern, last month, Archer wrote about the state book piracy in India in his blog, as reported by PTI.

“Here’s a classic example – they’re even putting my name on books that I didn’t write,” he said in a post on his blog. The example he cited was a pirated version of Passenger to Frankfurt in which the author’s name appear as Archer. The book is by Agatha Christie.

This is the same person who a few years ago was happily surprised when a street vendor tried to sell him a pirated copy of his book in a Mumbai traffic stop. Then again, perhaps he does not mind his books being pirated, but cares about his brand name being used to sell other pulp novels.

Last year, he also expressed his anger over some Bollywood producers ‘stealing’ his work without making any compensation. According to him, his novel Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less was made into the rom-com Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl and Kane and Abel into Khudgarz without his permission.

About Cometh the Hour, Archer said, “As six chapters of the book are set in Bombay, we decided to give the Indians an exclusive jacket cover, which I hope my Indian readers will like.” In India, Pan Macmillan has published the book.


Education @ Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair is a home to a wide variety of interesting exhibitors and conferences relevant to anyone working in the education sector. From exhibition spaces, with both prefabricated stands and modular HotSpots for digital companies, to events and expos highlighting the latest innovations in education, Frankfurt Book Fair has an entire hall - 4.2 - dedicated to the trends and technologies in education, academic and STM industries. Here, exhibitors can find peers and potential business partners, while trade visitors can network and know more about the future of education.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is also an important international platform for educational media of all kinds: More than 1,000 publishers, technology suppliers, service providers and other players from the educational field gather here to do business, to network, to find new trends while attending the many publishing events taking place across the Frankfurt Book Fair.

To know more and to register, write to


‘The Markets’ @ Frankfurt Book Fair

For the second year, the Frankfurt Book Fair (19-23 October 2016) and Publishing Perspectives will host ‘The Markets: Global Publishing Summit’ to help publishers around the world better understand and build relationships in seven important current and future markets.

On 18 October 2016, the pre-fair conference will showcase these seven markets: Brazil, Flanders & The Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, Spain, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.

At the event, each region will be presented from three perspectives: analysis, vision, and players. The programme will also include sessions on important issues for the global community beyond these markets.

“In making our selection, it was important to us to present not just very established markets but also lesser-known ones with significant potential for growth,” said Holger Volland, vice-president of business development, Frankfurt Book Fair. “With ‘The Markets’, we are inviting our clients to discover seven exciting markets and to discuss concrete business opportunities with partners immediately, on the spot.”

The core idea of ‘The Markets’ is to provide a platform for taking the next steps into the digital future of publishing, for building on the collective knowledge of the future of storytelling and content creation, and forging new relationships through facilitated discussion sessions. Attendees will be able to both talk to their peers about important and emerging issues such as open access, subscription models, direct-to-consumer sales, rights and licensing, and distribution, whilst also connecting with those important players in these regions.