Publishing Next 2014: A Report

The fifth edition of the Publishing Next conference, the platform for publishing professionals to discuss issues facing the book industry, was held on 19–20 September 2014 at the Krishnadas Shama State Central Library in Panaji, Goa.

09 Oct 2014 | By Leonard Fernandes

The agenda covered several topics that are of concern to publishers, with special attention given to publishing in Indian languages; technologies that impact publishing; and, trends that are seen in the publishing business today. The highlight of this year’s event was the first edition of the Publishing Next Industry Awards, which were presented in five categories this year. The Awards are instituted to recognise and reward the talent, initiatives and untiring efforts of publishers across the country.

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.

The two-day conference, organised by the Margao-based CinnamonTeal Publishing, featured panel discussions, 'how-to' workshops and insight sharing sessions conducted by several well-known names of the industry in India and from abroad, independent practitioners and researchers.

Networking opportunities among participants were also fostered through interactive sessions and dinners during the intensive two-day event. An inspiring keynote address by the renowned linguist and scholar Prof Ganesh Devy, was followed by eight panel discussions and six workshops this year, and presentations by sponsors and partners.

Professionals including publishers, editors, translators, book retailers, authors, academics, literary organizations and industry observers, were represented at the conference, thus demonstrating the ability of the conference to attract people from across the publishing spectrum. The roster of speakers consisted of well-known names, including Arvind Kumar, Karthika VK, Bipin Shah, Pratik Kanjilal, Meera Johri, Hemant Divate, Sanjeev Goswami, Ajay Mago, Ananth Padmanabhan, Klaus Willberg, and Alexandra Buechler, among several others.

The main sponsor of Publishing Next 2014 was HP India. The other sponsors were CinnamonTeal Publishing, Newshunt, Netex Knowledge Factory, Springer India and Ingram. The main supporting organisation of the conference was the National Book Trust, New Delhi. The conference was also supported by Department of Art and Culture, Government of Goa; Literature Across Frontiers; German Book Office, New Delhi; and, the French Book Office, India

In his address Prof Devy said, “It is time we accept English whole heartedly because it has become an equalising language in India.” Referring to the recent occurrences of censorship, Prof Devy observed that “democracies have become dictatorial, and the space of the book has gradually diminished.” Currently the chairman of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, Prof. Devy spoke of the extinction of indigenous languages in India and around the world.

He said that there were a total of 7000 known languages in the world and out of these 4000 would disappear by the end of the century, of which 2600 will exist but with reduced significance. He spoke about the lack of publishing houses in India that focused on the near-extinct Indian languages. To conclude, he suggested that in a vast country like India, subjects focused on geographical uniqueness, like the Himalayan region, coastal areas, tribal communities, and nomadic communities should be explored for publishing opportunities.


Publishing in Indian languages

The panel represented four languages – Konkani, Telugu, Kannada and Assamese. The discussion was primarily about the book publishing practices and activities in these languages. During the discussion panelists discussed how writers were discovered by publishers, the new trend of self- publishing, literary movements, availability of academic content in the languages, and retail connectivity available to publishers of books in Indian languages.

The panel was moderated by Vinutha Mallya, Principal at LineSpace Consulting, a publishing advisory based in Bengaluru. The speakers on the panel were Gurudath Bantwalkar, assistant director at the World Institute of Konkani Language; Guruprasad D Narayana, publisher of Bengaluru-based Aakriti Books; Kavi Yakoob, a Telugu poet and professor in Hyderabad; and Santanoo Tamuly, a well-known writer, editor and publisher based in Jorhat, Assam.

Open publishing, Copyright and Copyleft
The session opened the discussion by informing the audience about the Budapest Open Access Initiative, which was a landmark achievement in the effort to make research material easily accessible to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. The speakers successively explained why Open Access was found to be essential, how it has developed over the years and how challenges remain in its implementation.

The opportunities that are available to publishers through these changes and the relevance of academic libraries in the digital age were discussed. The  session was chaired by Shishir Jha, associate professor at IIT, Mumbai. The speakers on the panel were Geetika Sareen, a senior publisher at Wolter Kluwer Medknow; Renisha Winston, founder of I-Manage Publications; Sanjiv Goswami, country director of Springer (India); and, T Vishnu Vardhan, programme director for the Access to Knowledge Program at the Centre for Internet and Society.

The Business of Graphic Novels
The panel discussed how graphic novels are conceptualised and how a publisher often has to work with raw sketches and texts to give the book an acceptable form. With authors, illustrators and publishers all experimenting with this new genre, rules are still being written, all while taking care to ensure that the creativity of the author and illustrator is not stifled. The commercial aspects of the genre were also briefly discussed. The session was chaired by Pratheek Thomas, co–founder of Studio Kokaachi based in Cochin and Bengaluru.

The speakers were Appupen, a comics creator, artist and musician; Karthika V K, publisher and chief editor of Harper Collins India; Shriya Ghate, editor of Tinkle Digest; and Vidyun Sabhaney a writer for comics and visual narratives.

Are there good enough books for children?
In this session, speakers discussed the quality of books available today, and delved into how books were being made accessible to children. While some panelists were of the opinion that parents and teachers should not make the mistake of waiting for the right book and deny the children any available book altogether, others felt that it was important to concentrate on the age-specific needs of the child and develop books accordingly. The quality of books available in India was discussed as were the various measures taken by publishers to create books for children. The importance of translated children's literature was also discussed.

The panel was chaired by Aravinda Anantharaman, an author and expert on children’s literature. The speakers on this panel  were Arvind Kumar, former director of National Book Trust, and publisher and convener of PAG-E; Prof Rimli Bhattacharya, an educationist and researcher of children’s literature; Rubin D’Cruz, editor at NBT and former director of Kerala Balasahitya Institute; Santanoo Tamuly, a well-known writer, editor and publisher based in Jorhat, Assam; and, Gayatri T N, founder of Kutoohala, a learning and activities space for kids.

A Pulse on Publishing
This panel threw up varied views on the foreseeable future for the publishing industry. Panelists covered a range of views, from stressing on the bedrock of sound content, supplemented with effective marketing being the primary driving force behind book sales to how most new authors are highly disillusioned about the market and have huge expectations from their books.

One view was that publishers should understand the needs of young readers and develop relevant content for them. The uncertainty and unpredictability of the future of publishing with new trends and innovations coming up every other day was also highlighted. The discussion also veered in the direction of print v/s digital and the formats that are now available to publishers to package their content.

The session was chaired by Pratik Kanjilal, books editor of The Indian Express. The  speakers  were Meera Johri, partner at Rajpal and Sons; Shafina Segon, head of marketing, South Asia,   Taylor & Francis Group; Poulomi Chatterjee, editorial director of the adult and business division, Hachette India; Rakesh Khanna, co-founder of Blaft Publications; and, Klaus Willberg, advisor to the Association of Children's Book Publishers in German-speaking regions.

Worse Off Without Verse
The panel attempted to ascertain whether there was a cause for concern for the future of poetry publishing. The general perception that poetry is “un-marketable”, was taken up for discussion. The two publishers on the panel maintained that poetry publishing was profitable, although not very. There was discussion over the role of bookstores in stocking and selling poetry books. The panel concluded by stating that poems need to be presented in newer, innovative formats in order to keep up with changing times.

The session was moderated by Swati Daftuar, feature writer for The Hindu’s Sunday Magazine. The speakers were Karthika V K, publisher and chief editor of HarperCollins India; Hemant Divate, renowned Marathi poet, literary editor, translator, and publisher at Poetrywala; Arundhathi Subramaniam, a poet, arts journalist, curator and poetry editor; and, Gopikrishnan Kottoor, poet and publisher of the erstwhile Poetry Chain quarterly.

The Art of the Book

This was a freewheeling discussion between publishers of visually-rich and coffee table books and experts in printing technology. The panel discussed the demand for these books in current times, the business strategies publishers adopt to be able to keep such books visible and the modern printing technologies that are available to them.

The session was moderated by Vinutha  Mallya. The speakers were Bipin Shah, publisher of Mapin Publishing; Ajay Mago, publisher of Om Books; Shobit Arya, publisher of Wisdom Tree Books; Sahmeem Alam, segment manager–publishing, HP India, and, Gamyanth Shren, head of operations at Glo Digital Press.

E-publishing in India
This session shed some light on the approach of the two biggest trade publishers, Penguin Random House and HarperCollins to the market at present. Even though e-book sales are at present only 3–9% of the combined book sales, Flipkart reported that the growth of e-book sales is on a steady rise  –  close to 30% year-on-year. The only hurdle was the lack of consumer behaviour data, with Flipkart admitting that they are yet to adequately invest in analytics.

The panel was moderated by K Satyanarayan, co-founder of New Horizon Media. The speakers at the session were, Karthika V K, publisher of HarperCollins India; Ananth Padmanabhan, senior vice president, Penguin Random House; K Srinivas, assistant vice president and publisher, Pearson Education; and, Vivek R, head of business development for trade books,

One topic that was discussed exhaustively across most discussions was the possibility of electronic media to completely taking over print. An oft-repeated concern was that data about the publishing industry in India remains woefully insufficient and highly unreliable.


Face-to-face, Printers and Publishers
This session introduced printers and publishers to each other, and address specific queries, thereby helping them understand what the other could offer.

E-book Development and Distribution
The processes involved in developing e-books in various formats and in making them available to the audience were outlined. This workshop was conducted by M Sridhar, founder of Smart Solutions; K Satyanarayan, co-founder of New Horizon Media; and Odorica Coutinho, lead developer at CinnamonTeal Publishing.

Vinutha Mallya's impromptu Q&A session on ISBN issues was well received and attracted the problems, questions and possible solutions to the difficulties faced by publishers in the obtaining ISBNs from the issuing agency.

Publishing Translated Literature
The need to create an organised platform to enable authors, publishers and translators to collaborate on projects, and the role of the government to promote such platforms were emphasised. The workshop was conducted jointly by the UK-based Alexandra Buechler, director of Literature Across Frontiers; and Vinutha Mallya, publishing consultant. Buechler’s presence at the conference was supported by Literature Across Frontiers and Wales Arts International.

Global print distribution
This interactive workshop session re-examined the definition of 'Globalisation' in today's world and outlined the various opportunities available to publishers across global markets, and the common challenges and obstacles that hamper global distribution. The session was conducted Philippa Malicka, the Delhi-based representative of Lightning Source, Ingram’s Print on Demand distribution platform. 

Workshop on Fiction/History/Research
This session addressed ethical issues regarding usage of historical facts and the need to conduct sufficient research whilst composing fiction. Dominique Varma is a writer who lives and travels between France and India. 

Publishing environments of Brazil and Sri Lanka
The publishing industry and the environment in which book publishing takes place in the two countries were presented at the conference. The context of Brazil was presented by Prof Cassiano Leal, a teacher working within the municipal education system of Porto Alegre. Thilal Nanayakkara, a freelance communications specialist from Sri Lanka presented the industry in his country.

Insight talk by Klaus Willberg, advisor to the Association of Children's Book Publishers in German-speaking regions, offered pointers to the authors and illustrators among the audience about the legal aspects of publishing, and spoke about the need for more legal reforms in order to protect the rights of the author and the publisher. 

Possibilities with digital printing
This presentation by Shamim Alam of HP showed the ways in which books could be personaliaed, thanks to the capabilities now offered by digital printing. Personalised books have good appeal, especially in the children’s books segment, and could be a successful revenue stream for publishers in future.

Mobile content in Indian languages
NewsHunt’s representative Ravanan N presented the company’s capabilities to distribute and retail content in 12 Indian languages. The company’s foray into bringing books from Indian languages to mobile readers was highlighted.

New digital formats for content
Netex Knowledge Factory’s Sumedh Kasare delivered a presentation on new formats for digitisation of content, which the company provides as a service to publishers. He spoke of how e-books could revolutionise the learning experience.

Survey on Book Publishing in India
IppStar Services Training and Research’s Purva Rai Dwivedi presented an overview of the survey being undertaken by IppStar, to establish the current size of the entire book publishing industry.

The first edition of the Publishing Next industry awards were given this year in five categories. A total of 75 entries across the categories were received:

And thye 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)

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 PrintWeek India and Campaign India.

Publishing Next 2014 organising team
Publishing Next is organised by CinnamonTeal Publishing, a Margao (Goa)-based publishing house that provides publishing services to authors and publishers.

Founders and principal organisers: Leonard Fernandes and Queenie Rodrigues