This Fortnight in Publishing (22 January 2017)

Hello and welcome to This Fortnight in Publishing!

With the strained political climate across the world, readers are increasingly turning to the written world for solace and guidance, but it is yet unclear whether this shift would be significant enough to keep afloat news organisations and publishing houses that take on difficult subjects and viewpoints. Newspapers in the US have been reporting an uptick in subscriptions, and with Google and Facebook controlling as much as 99% (?) of ad revenues, it may be possible to consider a future where news organisations will be more subscription-driven than ad-driven. The question is whether they as businesses, and we as readers, will be able to adapt quick enough. The book world is not immune to these economic forces either - Pearson, as part of its current restructuring efforts led by John Fallon (and also because of its poor performance in the US academic market), has announced that it is considering selling its stake in Penguin Random House. Bertelsmann, the majority stakeholder, has said that it is willing to consider increasing its share, if "the financial terms are fair". Incidentally, Bertelsmann mentioned late last year that it intended to invest $1.1 billion in India, China, and Brazil (across its many businesses). Another potential big investor in the Indian market is UCWeb, a part of Alibaba Mobile Business Group. It has announced its plans of investing Rs 200 crore in India and Indonesia in the next two years. The news coincides with an announcement from the Indian government that it is considering relaxing its FDI rules for the news industry. (A majority Indian stakeholder will still be required.) The next few years are indeed going to be interesting for the news industry globally as well as in India. 

Things are a bit more cheery in the Indian book publishing market. Publishers at World Book Fair have reported higher sales, contrary to fears that demonetisation would dampen readers' spirits. Literature festivals and book fairs around the country are well attended; but as always, we don't have any definite numbers on them. Many anniversaries are being celebrated this month as well - Jaipur Literature Festival turns 10, Penguin India turns 25, and Harper Collins India turns 30.

A trend to watch out for this year maybe audio books. As Apple and Amazon's exclusivity deal comes to an end, we may be seeing other players gain more visibility. Also of interest: research institutions in Germany, Taiwan, and Peru have opted to cancel their Elsevier subscriptions after negotiations broke down last month. The consortium is trying to force Elsevier to come up with a better pricing plan and make a greater commitment to open access. I will be watching closely to see how these negotiations pan out.

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Have a good week everyone!


Chitralekha Manohar