Hello and welcome to This Fortnight in Publishing.
It's been a quiet fortnight in the publishing industry, but there are one or two things to look forward to. First, VK Karthika, previously publisher at HarperCollins, has announced that she's going to be working with Amazon-owned Westland. I'm curious to see what interesting books will come out of that collaboration - it's not very often that a publishing house has the advantage of also being the largest distributor, retailer, self-publisher, and book reviewing site. Second, yet another movie on Manto is being made, but starring a rather convincing Nawazuddin Siddiqui. (A biographic drama was made in 2015 in Pakistan.) The actual movie release has not yet been announced. An Art Book Fair is scheduled for November 2017 in Delhi, the first in India (I think). What is most exciting, however, is Google's quiet update to Google Translate. In the words of Sundar Pichai, "We have improved our translation ability more in one single year than all our improvements over the last 10 years combined." I'm not going to pretend that I understand all of it, but it has something to do with machine learning and reports are saying that it's pretty darn good. (Also, you can now point your phone at any Japanese text and have Google live translate it for you). Check out the NYT article for more on what is happening in the field of artificial intelligence.
In other news, Indian academic publishing has been attracting quite a bit of flak of late. As the churning within the academic publishing industry grows, what with the open access movement on one side and the clamp down on predatory journals on the other, India's lax standards for research publication have been attracting a lot of attention. An article in The Wire pointed out that at least 35 of the journals on the UGC's 'recommended journals' list could be classified as predatory, while another in The Hindu pointed out that India's repositories are woefully inactive. On a more global scale, two other events have created ripples in the scientific publishing community. On one hand, Trump's travel ban and general disregard for facts has caused significant unease in the scientific ecosystem. A March for Science is planned for April. On the other, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (yes, that Zuckerberg) has acquired Meta, an "AI-powered research search engine startup". The startup aims to basically help people (researchers, funding agencies, etc.) find the most relevant and promising work being done out there by leveraging data science.
In other news, Scholastic came out with a rather optimistic survey of young readers in India and concluded that "More than three-quarters of children aged 6–17 (77%) believe reading books for fun is extremely or very important." The report does note in its study methodology that it was an online survey, and this may have skewed its results.
That about sums up this fortnight. As always, direct all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a good week everyone!
'This Fortnight in Publishing' was started in April 2016 as a way to bring together information from diverse sources that may pertain to the publishing industry in India. Click here to view our archives.
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Karthika VK, who stepped down as Publisher and Chief Editor at HarperCollins Publishers India (HCI) last October, is set to start a new publishing division for Westland Publishers, now wholly owned by Amazon, according to sources. The name of the division is not known yet, but it is likely to start publishing titles from the third-quarter of this year.
Over 130 writers and thinkers from around the world attended the five-day Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet, 2017, one of the major literary festivals in the city.
This premiere landmark study shines a light on the independent reading behaviours and attitudes of Indian children aged 6–17 years, and their parents, plus parents of children aged 0–5 years.
Much to the delight of art- and book-lovers, India’s first ever Art Book Fair was announced at Jaipur Literature Festival 2017. The event is scheduled to take place between 24-26 November this year.
The UGC announced that it would convene a committee to prepare a list of recommended, genuine journals. Only the papers published in these journals would count towards an academic’s performance evaluation. The UGC's list includes a staggering 38,653 journals across all disciplines. A quick analysis of the list showed at least 35 journals might be considered 'predatory'.
India may not have a national open access policy in place, but different institutions such as the CSIR and UGC have open access policies that clearly mandate researchers to deposit their papers in institutional repositories. Yet, of the 69 Indian repositories listed, only 12 added “at least one item during a month" during the period June-July 2016.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $45 billion philanthropy organization is making its first acquisition in order to make it easier for scientists to search, read and tie together more than 26 million science research papers. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is acquiring Meta, an AI-powered research search engine startup, and will make its tool free to all in a few months after enhancing the product.
The incoming Trump administration's EPA transition team intends to remove some climate data from the agency's website. These researchers are swooping in to help.
Not only is there wide disagreement as to what “freely available” really means, but not everyone in the OA movement even agrees that all scholarship must be freely available, or how quickly it should be made freely available, or what mechanisms are appropriate for making it that way. Since the fact of this ideological diversity doesn’t seem to be self-evident, this article helpfully lays it out.
This month, Google used artificial intelligence to reinvent Google Translate, creating a new service that provides much more intuitive and clear translations.
It is the first time Waterstone's has been in the black since the chain was bought by Mamut for £53m from previous owner, the HMV Group. In that time, stores have benefited from capital investment and unprofitable ones have been closed. The company bet on empowering its booksellers to hand-sell titles, increasing its range and bringing staff out on to the shop floor, while maintaining a tight hold on costs.
Are journal editors always in the best place to decide the fate of a paper based on a severely limited sampling of peer reports?
"If a girl is ugly and handicapped, then it becomes difficult for her to get married," says a textbook prescribed by the Maharashtra board.
North American publisher Doubleday Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, will this year release a previously unfinished children’s book by Mark Twain.
Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and McGraw Hill have subpoenaed Amazon to reveal the names and financial accounts of online vendors who are allegedly selling low-cost pirated copies of their books on Amazon.
First look of Nawazzuddin Siddiqui from Manto is out and it makes us eager for the biopic of one of the most fierce storytellers of pre- and post-colonial India.
Threatened by recent policy developments, the scientific community in the US is rallying to protect science and scientists. The March for Science is scheduled for Earth Day, April 22nd, Washington.
Paul Beverley's video tutorials for his amazing editing macros.
Last week, Alibaba-owned UCWeb announced a US$30-million investment to develop a content business around the UC Browser in India and Indonesia. This is just the start of a much bigger commitment to its two most important markets outside China in 2017, Jack Huang, president of the Alibaba Mobile Business Group, later explained.
Strangely enough, the publisher that has been in the business of storytelling and storytellers had never previously used mainline advertising. The spot was released at the recently concluded Jaipur Literature Festival and marks the publisher’s 25th anniversary in India.
‘The totemic figures of traditional publishing in Pakistan haven’t looked to sustain anything other than their own relevance,’ says Shandana Minhas of Mongrel Books.
English is gradually developing as a household language for the upper middle classes. On the other hand, Hindi is spoken and used as the medium of study only in the families of first-generation school students. The class character of Hindi has shifted. It is no more the language of ‘upper’ caste sensibility; it is thriving as a language of Dalits, Adivasis and the marginalised.
The new Google Play Books system in India is the equivalent of Kindle Singles. They comprise e-books that are too short to be novels and are too long to be featured as magazine articles. Google is hoping that the 5-20 page e-books, written by A list authors, will catch on in India and are only charging a few cents for each title. Right now, the only way to pay is via credit card or netbanking.
The city got its first braille library for visually impaired students at the Guwahati Blind High School this month. The library will offer braille versions of a variety of books and journals.
Bookbhook is a website and app-based platform that offers summaries of selected non-fiction books authored by Indian and international writers. The summaries span subjects such as self-help, business, entrepreneurship, personality development, and spirituality.
A micro-publisher is a professional publishing organization that brings together a flexible workforce to produce a small number of highly targeted books.