Hello and welcome to This Fortnight in Publishing.
Those who know me will know that I do not read any Tamil, but Asokamitran is a name I've heard throughout my life. During several of my ill-fated attempts to start reading Tamil books, when I was scouting around for books that combine simple language and engaging stories, his work was often recommended. I've heard his name in passing conversation at home, at friends' homes, in the Chennai book fair, and in conversations with other publishing professionals, and each time I would make a mental note to give it another try. It's sad to hear that he is no more. You can check out a much better eulogy by Mangai here and Jeyamohan here (there's a controversy about the latter already).
It seems that the literary award season may be behind us, but it is time for awards for publishing professionals. Bookaroo recently won the Literary Festival of the Year award at the London Book Fair International Excellence awards, while four Indian news publications were nominated for the Asian Media Awards (results to be announced on 19 April).
In other news, three academic publishing heavyweights - Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor & Francis - have decided to withdraw from the photocopying case that began five years ago. For those who have not been following the case, the issue began in 2012 when the three academic publishers filed a copyright infringement case against Rameshwari Photocopy, a photocopy shop located on the campus of Delhi School of Economics. The allegation was that the photocopy shop was selling "course packs" made of photocopied sections of their books. There were a few technicalities in the case: a) the percentage of a book that can be copied under the "fair use" policy; b) whether this counts as "educational use" under the fair use claim; and c) the prohibitively high cost of textbooks. The last point perhaps influenced the case the most - the case brought up several thorny issues regarding how to balance access to knowledge and the cost of producing knowledge. These are the same questions that are plaguing the open access movement - we can all agree that research should be made accessible, but how then do we pay for conducting, writing, editing, reviewing, and publishing research?
It is unclear as yet why the publishers withdrew from the case, though it has been suggested that as academic publishers are increasingly transitioning to digital channels that offer a tighter hold on copyright (since they may fall under international law as opposed to Indian law), the case's importance has reduced since 2012. However, it is true that the case has been progressing unfavourably for them, since a single-judge bench ruled against the publishers in September 2016, and a division bench in December 2016 clarified that the photocopying is permissible if it is being done by a teacher "in the course of instruction" for classroom use. In a somewhat mixed statement, the publishers said, "We understand and endorse the important role that course packs play in the education of students. We support our authors in helping them produce materials of the highest standard and we maintain that copyright law plays an important part in balancing the interests of those creating, curating, and disseminating learning materials with those requiring access to them."
And to wind things up: the growth of the digital books segment is finally plateauing/declining and for a very simple reason. Digital book retailers can no longer offer the discounts they were offering earlier to woo readers. Without the crazy discounts, readers are migrating back to print.
Have a good week everyone!
As always, email me at email@example.com in case you want to discuss anything in this newsletter.
Art Cullen, of Storm Lake Times, won the Putlizer Prize for editorial writing for editorials that confronted the state's most powerful agricultural interests, which include the Koch Brothers, Cargill and Monsanto, and their secret funding of the government defense of a big environmental lawsuit.
Prominent Tamil writer and Sahitya Akademi winner Ashokamitran, who powerfully portrayed the lives and struggles of the urban middle class life in his literary works, died, aged 86, on 23 March. He collapsed at home. He is survived by his wife and three sons.
Over nine years of its existence, Bookaroo, India’s own festival of children’s literature, has not only held it own against the heavyweights of Indian literature festivals, it has just achieved what none of the others have. On Tuesday, March 16, Bookaroo won the Literary Festival of the Year award at the London Book Fair International Excellence awards.
Four Indian newspaper companies — Malayala Manorama, Jagran Prakashan, India Today Group and Kasturi & Sons — are among the finalists of the Asian Media Awards at Publish Asia 2017.
Three international publishers today moved court to withdraw a five-year-long lawsuit against photocopying of textbooks for use as study material in Delhi University. In a statement, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor & Francis said they had "taken a considered decision not to pursue" the case and would be "filing an application with... Delhi High Court to withdraw as plaintiffs".
It has recently been announced that Seagull Books and Pan Macmillan India have entered into a partnernship to distribute Seagull World Literature in India.
Education-focussed publishing house S Chand & Company, which got SEBI nod for an initial public offering (IPO), is scouting to acquire regional content houses. The company also plans to further its presence in the higher education business, particularly in the test preparation market.
In a new effort to identify predatory journals, the Polish researchers undertook another sting. This one was different from Bohannon’s because it didn’t target reporters or the consumers of journalism – thereby undermining no trust – but went after journals. Piotr Sorokowski, Agnieszka Sorokowska, Katarzyna Pisanski and Emanuel Kulczycki created a fake person with fake credentials on the web, had her apply to 360 journals to be an editor and then waited to see how many applications succeeded.
The book, by Devesh Kapur and Pratap Mehta, brings together a series of essays by a diverse cast of academics and professionals on a range of pressing issues. From the need for vocational education and multidisciplinary research universities to issues of internal governance and finance, the individual chapters are useful contributions. But what the book seems to show most starkly is how little headway has been made in higher education scholarship on India over the last decade.
For over a month now, journalist Sandhya Ravishankar has been receiving death threats and facing online abuse that she has blamed on VV Mineral, a sand-mining company in Tamil Nadu that she has named in her reports about illegal sand-mining on the state’s southern beaches. She has accused the company of stalking her and taping her, and said the online trolls even leaked her mobile number.
The Government of India has reacted sharply to The New York Times' editorial criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's choice of Adityanath Yogi as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and said the paper's wisdom to write such a piece was "questionable".
The foreign language section of the National Library — responsible for the collection of foreign language books and exchange of the same with libraries of other countries — has been without staff for almost a decade. Library sources say the “complete absence of staff” has not only hit the collection of foreign publications but has also brought down the number of readers to nil.
Now in his 104th year, GV – known by his initials as teachers often are – is a towering figure in the world of Kannada letters (and, as it happens, words). He’s had a distinguished working life as a college teacher and principal, as an editor, as a translator who has made works by Kabir, Shankaracharya, RL Stevenson and J Krishnamurthi available in Kannada, and as author of a large shelf’s worth of literary history and criticism. His monumental achievement though remains the stewardship of the 54-year-long project which brought into being the Kannada Sahitya Parishat’s Nighanṭu – an eight-volume, 9,000-page monolingual dictionary.
The Chennai-based writer, lawyer, photographer Suchitra Vijayan moved court to object to the release of Damodaran’s book, claiming its contents are nearly identical to a book she has been working on since 2012. On March 5, the Madras High Court granted an interim injunction to Vijayan for four weeks, valid till April 3, retraining the two defendants – Hachette Book Publishing India Private Limited and Pradeep Damodaran from “directly or indirectly in any manner, copying, reproducing, adapting, using the plaintiff’s content in the impugned work amounting to infringement of copyright, or in any other manner whatsoever, pending disposal of the suit.”
“Gender in the Global Research Landscape” uses data from Elsevier’s Scopus database of over 62 million documents to identify trends in global research from a gender perspective over 20 years, 12 countries and regions, and 27 subject areas. (India is not an area of focus for the report.)
Sales of physical books increased 4% in the UK last year while ebook sales shrank by the same amount. Experts account this to a shift in pricing. The shift in ebook pricing reflects a change in the contractual terms agreed between Amazon, which controls up to 90% of the UK ebook market, and the major publishing houses. As a result it is now sometimes cheaper to buy the physical copy of a new title on Amazon than the Kindle download.
The total pay of John Fallon, the chief executive of Pearson, increased by 20% last year, despite the FTSE 100 company reporting the biggest loss in its history, and the prime minister, Theresa May, criticising boardroom excess.
Faber will offer an online permissions and licensing tool to the industry as a “first of its kind” following the successful launch of its permissions site last year. OPAL is aimed at publishers or agents who wish to streamline how their content is accessed and licensed particularly those with extensive backlists. The package will include demos and training, customisation, hosting and advice on how to maximise the benefits of the system. Software house, Concurrent, Faber's partner in the development, develops licensing products across several industries.
Bertelsmann expects to raise its stake in Penguin Random House to between 70-75%, CEO Thomas Rabe is reported to have told German newspaper Der Spiegel. Bertelsmann currently holds a 53% stake in the company.
A Chinese satire of communism, a retelling of the Robin Hood myth set in the Republic of Congo and a coming-of-age tale in a still-divided Jerusalem are among 13 books from 11 different languages that are longlisted for the Man Booker international prize.
Robert Silvers, who died on Monday morning, was the editor of the New York Review of Books since 1963, meaning that for more than 50 years he presided over the leading literary magazine in the English language.
Contemporary English is what it is, Stamper suggests, not just because the islands of Britain happened, across the distance of history, to have been conquered by speakers of Latin and German and French; English is also English because Shakespeare appreciated a good fart joke, and because Lewis Carroll found the words invented by the time his century came along to be lacking, and because, in 2015, a 16-year-old named Peaches Monroee looked at her image in a car mirror and decided that the best way to describe her perfectly styled eyebrows was “on fleek.” English, like any other language, is a geopolitical phenomenon that evolves by way of individual genius. The scolds are offering top-down rebukes about a language that changes from the bottom up.
In his new book, "Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing," Blatt examines the stylistic fingerprints of writers (which follow them even when they write under pen names in different genres), whether Americans are “louder” than Brits in their writing, the differences between how men and women write, whether books are getting simpler (yup), and many other curiosities.
Ernest Hemingway had a rough time with his Italian publisher, Einaudi, the venerable Turin-based house that still prints a good portion of his titles today. The issue, as is so often the case, was money: Einaudi, Hemingway complained, were communists looking for any excuse to withhold his overdue royalties. After 1947, he’d grown so exasperated that he refused to publish another book with them. So it’s all the more startling to discover that in the spring of 1955, he quietly agreed to convert a large part of his growing credit with the house into company stock, becoming a major shareholder overnight.
A conversation with the editor of a new collection of Fitzgerald's stories, including “The I.O.U.,” a spoof on publishing that appears in this week's magazine.
An overtime case that will delight language nerds everywhere hinges on the absence of an Oxford comma.
This Fortnight in Publishing was started in April 2016 as a way to bring together disparate sources of information on the publishing industry in India and at large. Click here to view our archives.
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