Hello and welcome to This Fortnight in Publishing.
It has been a slightly bizarre month for textbook publishing in India. First, there was that textbook that stated that families have to pay higher dowries for brides who are "ugly" or "handicapped". Next came the news about the textbook that suggested that children should learn about the importance of air for living things by shutting a kitten in a sealed box and noting what happens to it. And now, the HRD Ministry and the CBSE board have issued a circular stating that CBSE schools should use only NCERT books and not those published by private players. Confusion prevails. PrintWeek reported that there is "no written clarity on whether NCERT books are mandatory." A CBSE official has somewhat darkly commented, "Whether [schools] comply or not will be their prerogative. But they will be answerable for any development thereafter.” There are lots of issues at play here: the rising costs of textbooks, bribes paid to school administrations to prescribe textbooks, and allegations of lack of quality on both sides. In addition, there is also a question of whether the textbooks will be ready in time, as 2016 saw several complaints of NCERT books hitting the market well into the academic year. With the 2017 academic year only a little more than a year away, it remains to be seen how publishers, schools, parents, printers, and other stakeholders will respond.
In other news, Juggernaut, the mobile publishing company that was started about a year and a half ago, seems to be having a leadership implosion. Co-founder Durga Raghunath stepped down recently, soon after head of marketing, Rachna Kalra, did. Hopefully, the company will be able to navigate these troubled waters.
The rest of this edition is a bit more eclectic. There are rumours about a Mick Jagger memoir, a research-based sketch of Mr Darcy which (unsurprisingly) looks nothing like Collin Firth, a £2 million book heist, a possible glimpse of Proust on film, and four more lit fests to look forward to - two in Delhi and two in Mumbai. Google and Apple have both stated that tech companies need to step up to combat fake news and talk about what measures they're taking to combat the scourge (check out the videos from Code Media).
Have a good week everyone. As always, direct all feedback to email@example.com. Thank you for staying with me on this journey so far.
Over and out.
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Already reeling under the effects of demonetisation, the academic book printers (and by extension the publishers of K-12 curriculum) were in for another shock when the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), at a meeting in presence of Central HRD minister Prakash Javadekar, took the decision that all CBSE-affiliated schools will have to follow NCERT textbooks from the academic session 2017-18. Recently, the HRD ministry has also decided to make NCERT books available before the commencement of the academic session.
Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, wants to bring Audible, its audio books streaming service, to India. To source content, it has been in talks with the biggest book publishers in the country, such as Penguin Random House and HarperCollins, as well as the Chiki Sarkar-led start-up, Juggernaut.
A brand new writers’ festival is being planned for Delhi. At the two-day literature festival, there will be panel discussions and talks by speakers such as Monika Halan, Bahar Dutt, Aparna Jain, Veenu Venugopal, Mala Bhargava, Yashodhara Lal, Urvashi Butalia, etc. The Women Writer's Festival is scheduled from February 24 to 25.
Less than 17 months after she co-founded Juggernaut Books with publisher Chiki Sarkar, Durga Raghunath has stepped down as the company's CEO. The company's key offering, the Juggernaut Books app, was launched less than a year ago, in April 2016, with investments from marquee names such as former UIDAI boss Nandan Nilekani, FabIndia's William Bissell and Boston Consulting Group India MD Neeraj Aggarwal.
Sahitya Akademi's annual 'Festival of Letters' is scheduled to begin from February 21 in Delhi. This year, the event will focus on "Protecting the mother tongue and folk literature".
Two upcoming festivals in Mumbai, Lit O Fest and Gateway LitFest, aim to focus on regional literature and provide it a worthy platform.
Writers’ Bloc, a workshop-cum-residency for writers, was started in 2002 by Rage Productions along with The Royal Court London and The British Council. To mark the 15th year of Writers’ Bloc, the organisers were taking 14 plays, including Mahua and OK, Tata, Bye Bye, across nine cities till March 11.
British journalist Anita Anand and historian William Dalrymple will also be in attendance to discuss their new book Kohinoor. Advisors to the fest include Maina Bhagat and Namita Gokhale. Previously, the Indian Council for Cltural Relations sponsored four Indian authors to the Karachi Literary Festival.
While the University Grants Commission's system prioritizes peer-reviewed papers, experts not involved in the initiative express concern that it could incentivize cheating.
With public libraries closing down and books becoming more expensive, children from backward classes find it harder to read.
This transformation underlines the organisation’s commitment to distinctive journalism and serving genuine readers, while upholding the core values of credible and accurate reportage that both shape and reflect public opinion.
The man who gave Indian publishing some of its bestselling writers – including Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Datta, Preeti Shenoy, and Sudeep Nagarkar – is the quiet, reclusive founder and CEO of the Delhi-based Srishti Publishers. His name is Jayanta Kumar Bose.
An interview with Charlie Redmayne, CEO, HarperCollins UK, on digital publishing, HarperCollins’s India plans, and the state of publishing in general.
Despite some softness late in the year, bookstores sales in 2016 rose 2.5% over 2015. Store revenue reached just under $12 billion last year compared to $11.68 billion in 2015.
Philip Pullman, Alex Wheatle and Alan Gibbons added their voice to authors speaking out against the ‘appalling’ exclusion of acclaimed books by leading black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) writers.
In a piece for Britain’s Spectator, publisher and rock historian John Blake has revealed that despite Jagger being vocal throughout his entire life about not having a desire to write down his extraordinary life experiences, he had, in fact, written a “75,000-word manuscript” in the early 1980s that Blake is currently in possession of.
According to Publishers Lunch, Association of American Pushers (AAP) members earned $205.6 million in revenue from digital audiobooks in 2015 (the last year where we have complete data). This was up significantly from $148 million in revenue in 2014.
Tome raiders have stolen more than 160 rare books by abseiling into a warehouse, but they may struggle to cash in on their £2m crime.
The Gray Lady is embarking on an ambitious plan to make itself indispensable.
While trawling a French film archive, a professor stumbled upon a clip from a 1904 wedding that contains the only known moving images of the great novelist.
The publication of Ernest Hemingway’s complete correspondence is shaping up to be an astonishing scholarly achievement. We are already on the third of a projected seventeen volumes, minimum, which will include in their entirety every surviving letter, postcard and telegram sent by Hemingway.
The British author talked to NPR about The Book of Dust, his return to the world of Lyra Belacqua and armored bears, the first volume of which will be published in October.
When it comes to attracting younger readers, the outreach efforts of The New York Times and Washington Post seem to be paying off. New data from the Pew Research Center finds that adults under age 50 got their election news from national newspapers at rates equal to or greater than those of people over fifty.
Experts believe Jane Austen’s ideal Darcy would bear little comparison to the one played by Colin Firth in BBC’s 1995 series. "More ballerina than "beefcake," someone said.
Recode’s annual media conference, Code Media, took place in California on February 13 and 14, and featured speakers like The Washington Post’s Marty Baron and Stratechery’s Ben Thompson. You can find links to watch video of each of the panels in the posts here,