This Fortnight in Publishing (6 January 2017)

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

Have a good week everyone!


Chitralekha Manohar