This Fortnight in Publishing (20 February 2017)


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 chitra@thecleancopy.com. Thank you for staying with me on this journey so far. 

Over and out.

Chitralekha Manohar