Amazon announces closure of Westland Books

In a decision that shook the publishing community, Amazon has announced the closure of the Indian publishing company Westland Books. The decision was conveyed to senior employees of the company on 1 February by its CEO Gautam Padmanabhan.

02 Feb 2022 | By PrintWeek Team

The decision is especially shocking because this is the first time in India that a major English language publishing company will be closed down permanently, instead of it being sold off to another buyer.

Amazon has not explained why it took the decision to shut down the business instead of selling it off, especially given the fact that Westland and its imprints, Context and Eka, have published some of the popular and important authors in the last couple of years, including bestselling authors like Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi. The publisher also has an extensive backlist of titles by well-known authors.   

It’s unlikely that Amazon would give up the lists that Westland created. According to publishing insiders, in the most likely scenario, the company will absorb the list under Amazon Publishing and its imprint like Amazon Crossing.

Amazon’s publishing subsidiary, Amazon Publishing, was set up in 2009. The company, which has grown to 16 imprints and nine offices around the world, describes itself as “a leading publisher of commercial and literary fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books.”

According to news reports, employees of Westland Books have been promised that efforts would be made by Amazon to absorb the staff into the Amazon system.

Unlike multinationals like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette in the trade publishing category, Westland Books is a homegrown publishing company with a turnover of Rs 30-crore.

Founded in 1994 by KS Padmanabhan, and Hemu Ramaiah of Landmark Bookstores, Westland was a book distributing company. Its sister company, East West Books, had been distributing trade and academic books since 1990. At about the same time, East West began publishing first-time authors and translations of well-known authors under the Manas imprint. By 2000, Westland was one of the largest book distributors in the country. The two companies were merged into Westland when Trent, the Tata group’s retail subsidiary, acquired them in 2005.

In February 2016, Amazon bought 26% stake in Westland. In October the same year, it bought the remaining 74%, and Westland became a wholly owned subsidiary of the global conglomerate. The move was seen as a part of Amazon’s plan to expand its presence in the Indian book market.

Westland has several imprints, including Context, which has published a number of highly-respected and award-winning literary fiction and a number of acclaimed books on politics, society and arts; and Eka, which publishes books in Indian languages as well as translations from Indian languages into English. The other imprints include Tranquebar, Red Panda for children’s books, Westland Business Unusual, Westland Classics, among others.

(Courtesy: Agencies)