The core question still remains: why? “There’s a contradiction at the centre of things,” they tell me, “and so it is with Tunglið”. They both love and hate that books “strive for permanence”, and how we attempt to “reconcile ourselves with impermanence by making permanent things”. Writing a book is, for some writers, a deluded attempt at immortality. Tunglið saves its authors from this delusion.
Hello and welcome to This Fortnight in Publishing.
I begin with the slightly bizarre since that seems to be the mood of the times. There is a small publishing house in Iceland, which prints its books in batches of 69 on a full moon night. Books that are not immediately sold are burned, and first-grade French cognac is used to fuel the flames. The publishers believe that publishing is filled with undue worrying and self-promotion – all of it quite degrading when you think about it – and this is a kind of liberation. In another part of the world, there is a woman with a mission. She fills out lengthy paperwork to convince some of most reputed libraries in the world to make a small addition to their collections – to add an extra page on evolution to the Gutenberg Bible. She has succeeded in adding the addendum to 39 of the 48 extant Bibles.
Now we have that out of the way, onward to matters closer at hand. Since last summer, the issue of ISBN allocation has been slowly spiraling out of control. Things began optimistically enough when in April last year, Smriti Irani's Ministry of Human Resource Development announced that a new online application portal for ISBNs (the unique identification code for each book) has been launched and that publishers will be able to get their ISBNs in seven days. Applying for ISBNs has always been a tricky matter, and publishers reacted to the news with cautious excitement. However, instead of speeding up the process, the online portal only seems to have made things worse over the last year. ISBN allocations now take three to four months according to publishers, and emails, phone calls, and official complaints are never answered. A greater concern is that the new process requires publishers to submit information about the book (book jacket, blurb, author bio) which may lead to increased government censorship. It appears that publishers have taken a step forward and have started sending complaints to the International ISBN Agency directly, and the agency has reportedly send a letter to the MHRD saying that it is "seriously considering revoking the appointment of [the MHRD] and awarding ISBN agency of India to another organisation.” Though this letter was sent on 29 March, I could not trace any official response. According to one publishing professional, while they have been relying on their current stock of ISBNs to tide them through for now, things are going to get difficult as time goes on.
Those who are inclined to be optimistic and are looking for some good news will be happy to hear that the Indian publishing industry is doing quite well compared to its counterparts in the US and UK, largely driven by its educational sector. However, it being such a large pot, I suppose it is very hard for the government to resist the temptation to stir it. Following complaints about the quality and price of textbooks published by private players, the Central Board of School Education (CBSE) is pushing for all CBSE schools to use only National Council for Education and Research (NCERT) books. This is not new for the CBSE; prior to the April 2017 circular, there were similar circulars in April 2016 and July 2015. However, the language of the circulars seem to be getting more contrite. While earlier it was a gentle request to stop foisting unnecessary textbooks on children, the current circular says "All the schools affiliated to CBSE are required to follow directions given in Circular No. Acad/13/2016 dated 12.04.2016 regarding use of NCERT /CBSE textbooks but often the Board receives reports and complaints regarding the pressure exercised by schools on children and their parents to buy textbooks other than NCERT/CBSE." The use of the word "required" has caused some ambiguity, with schools unsure about whether they are mandated to use NCERT books. Counter-accusations have in turn been made, with publishers pointing out that the NCERT would be unable to handle the increased volume of printing and distribution and that the material is hopelessly out of date. NCERT has responded by saying that it will undertake a review of its textbooks.
To clarify the issue once and for all, Maharashtra English School Trustees Association (MESTA) took the issue to court. The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court ruled that the textbooks published by private players can be used as additional reference sources, but NCERT books are mandatory in schools. In another surprising turn of events, the MHRD has stepped in and has pointed out that several complaints have been made about the textbooks that the CBSE itself publishes, and hence, they should be discontinued from the next academic year.
We don't have any clear numbers on how big the CBSE textbook market in specific is, though numbers have been tossed around that over a 1,000 publishers operate in the segment. Only next year's financial results will show what effect this decision will have on the education market.
That about wraps it up for this edition; have a good week everyone.
As always, write to me at email@example.com.
After 20 years, Arundhati Roy, out with her second novel, says she is not going to let some idiots disrupt the moment and snatch all the headlines. An interview by Zach O' Yeah.
The most recent achievement is that the Rs 540-crore company, after eight decades of operation (“seventy-eight years to be precise,” says Gupta) made its debut on the bourses in April 2017; S Chand launched its IPO (to raise Rs 325 crore) and an offer for sale by existing shareholders, including Everstone Capital, took the total issue size to Rs 728.5 crore.
In 2013-14, about $2.9 bn worth of academic books for school children were sold in India, and $860 m worth of higher education books were sold. By 2015-16, these figures had risen to $4.1 bn and $1.2 bn, respectively. But while the opportunities are significant, so are the hurdles — none more so than the perception of weak intellectual property protection.
Indian publishing is growing at 30% per annum since 2009; yet bookstores are shutting shop across the country. So what’s the deal?
The HRD ministry's new rules for giving ISBNs to publishers are inexplicable – why should the applicant get clearance from NITI Aayog?
Publishers in India have written repeatedly to the Agency to complain about the many problems they have been facing in obtaining ISBN numbers.
Besides the ongoing publications of Gandhian literature, Mahatma Gandhi-founded publication house, Navajivan Trust, has decided to publish popular literature, which is not related either to Gandhi's life or his ideology. Navajivan's managing trustee, Vivek Desai, said the new publications will be under the name of `Navajivan Samprat' (Contemporary Navjivan).
What kind of pressures are India’s English language publishers under in 2017? How has the business changed? What do the heads of the companies have to do differently now? To find out, Scroll.in posed some questions to the heads of a multinational publishing company and of an Indian one: Thomas Abraham of Hachette India and Manas Saikia of Speaking Tiger Books.
Repro India’s boost to their print on demand (POD) division and robust performances by other stationery majors seem to be in the news in what has otherwise been a quiet first quarter, reports PrintWeek. Children’s education and books for K12 and stationery exports all seem to have performed well.
Notion Press has launched Scholarink.com, an open access academic publishing platform that will help academic authors, universities, and other organisations publish their work and make it available in over 100 countries.
Author of Our Moon Has Blood Clots, Rahul Pandita, has accused the author of The Tree With A Thousand Apples, Sanchit Gupta, of blatant plagiarism. Pandita has also shared images of the passages and anecdotes Gupta has picked up.
According to sources, the ministry has raised concern over the fact as to why an examination conducting body is publishing textbooks when NCERT is already there. "The mandate of CBSE is to conduct examinations and affiliate schools. For textbooks, there is already NCERT which has been entrusted with the task of working on the curriculum and publication of textbooks," said a senior official.
Leading academic and professional publisher Sage, in collaboration with Kolkata-based The Neotia University, has instituted short-term professional courses in editing with an aim to support graduates in pursuing a career in publishing.
On May 15, 2017, a local law in New York City establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, specifically the right to: a written contract, timely and full payment, and protection from retaliation.
In a memo sent to staffers, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn said, “Every day The New York Times produces the best edited news report in the world. It is a marvel of ambition, discipline and accuracy ... But as the news business changes, most of us have come to believe there are too many layers in our process, too many editors touching the same stories, particularly on routine news coverage. This system is a vestige of an assembly-line structure held over from a newspaper-only newsroom built around multiple print deadlines. It is costly and slows us down.”
Picking up the award, Alderman said: “The women’s movement is more vital to me than any other utility that might come into my house. The support and power of other women has been more vital to me than electricity.” Whoops rang out, as well they might; Alderman had captured the spirit of the award. The Women’s Prize for fiction was set up in 1995 in response to an all-male Booker shortlist in 1991
Fake books – powered by clickfarms – are gatecrashing Amazon’s charts. Fake books (filled with plagiarised content or just nonsense) are listed as free books and clickfarms drive them to the top of the bestseller list. This is usually done over the weekend, so that the book generates a significant number of clicks before Amazon takes action. The book is usually moved to a paid listing by Monday, but by then the clicks have already done their damage and the books get a higher percentage of the share from the Kindle Unlimited pot.
How does Amazon Books differ from Barnes & Noble as well as the many book chains that have bitten the dust in recent years? Discovery and data.
The Pew Research Center today offered new and telling data points on the continuing financial decline of the newspaper business and a banner year in 2016 for their cable competitors in the US. A fact sheet documents concurrent declines last year in newspaper organizations' paid circulation, advertising (down 10 percent compared to 2015) and news staffing. The outlets are making progress on the digital side of their business but that falls well short of a turnaround.
Although the reports of mass market’s death have been greatly exaggerated, the format has been struggling. According to NPD BookScan, which tracks roughly 80% of print sales, mass market titles accounted for 13% of total print units sold in 2013; that figure dropped to 9% last year.
There is little doubt that piracy of subscription or member-only access content is damaging to publishers and societies. Does the same hold true for open access journals? Angela Cochran explores.
Two scholars unearthed a 1901 work called 'The Shadow of a Doubt', written before the author found fame with 'The Age of Innocence'.
Tunglið is a tiny imprint that defies conventional business models, incinerating work that doesn’t sell immediately. Its creators explain their work as a ‘poetic act’.
Jenifer Wightman has convinced the most august libraries in the world to add an addedum - an extra page that reinterprets the story of Adam and Eve as evolution - to 39 of the 48 extant Gutenberg Bibles.
Intuitively, “upper” and “lower” letter cases make sense — after all, the former generally stand taller and bigger than their counterparts. But these designations were actually derived from something far more tangible — the way type was stored.
Publons is a firm which allows scientists to track and showcase their peer-reviewing contributions. It has just been bought for a tidy sum by Clarivate Analytics, which runs Web of Science, an index that tracks how often researchers cite each others’ papers.
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