Friday, July 15, 2011

India's turning point in publishing

This particular cover story in Outlook has ruffled many feathers in the publishing world.

Most of my friends who've read this are clearly miffed, bewildered almost, regarding the arguments made in this article. Have a look at the comments section on that story, some heavy blows being traded, amongst readers:

Especially portions like this, the first of which begins to describe the earlier predicament of today's rockstars in Indian publishing.

"They are the sort of writers who couldn’t get past the security guards outside plush publishing houses."

And this, which make the entire write-up seem like a plug, from Westland's PR firm:

"There’s another reason why Rujuta (Diwekar) preferred to switch to Westland from her more prestigious first publisher (Random House India). (Westland) has a healthy respect for books that sell... (they) know how to keep their bestselling authors happy...

"Westland, according to Rujuta, understands the value of relationships and that’s why she wants to stay with them no matter how hard the others try and tempt her away. "

I read the entire article and I can imagine it provoking reactions from different kinds of people:

1. If I was a struggling writer / wannabe writer, this article would give me immense hope and encouragement.

2. If I was an established author, or even the best-selling type who began his career at least a decade ago, I would be a little annoyed, but not worried. Probably, I would figure out a way to find out if the pricing of my existing books could be re-worked, reduced to a point where they can be made more affordable.

3. If I was a bookseller, I'd just be plain delighted. More books are being sold, and nothing would please me more than seeing more copies getting sold. Moreover, the fact that books are being written in English that's far simpler, means that books are reaching a much wider variety of people. Even first time readers.

4. If I was an publisher, like the ones quoted above, then this article would get me seriously thinking. The fact that high brow literature - high prices, higher quality in English, more sophisticated, bold stories - has not as many takers as those opting for popular, cheaper paperbacks, means that some strategy must be figured to address the new-found demand for simpler, affordable and easier to read literature.

Penguin Books India, has already found a way to address that demand, by launching Metro Reads, the cheaper, light paperbacks. Although titled Metro Reads, they're likely to be as popular in the interiors as well.