This Fortnight in Publishing (8 May 2017)

Hello and welcome to This Fortnight in Publishing!

It's been more than a year since I put out the first edition of this newsletter, and to be honest, I'm a little surprised that it's still around. A few months ago, in a fit of frustration, I unsubscribed anyone who hasn't opened even one of these emails, so this means that each of you has read at least one edition at some point in the past. Thank you for sticking with me, for dropping me little notes of encouragement. for pointing out mistakes, for encouraging me to think about all the other conceivable forms this newsletter could take.  

When I started this newsletter, I had no intentions of it being anything other than a round-up of news and interesting essays relevant to publishing in India. It was an idea that Vinutha Mallya and I had discussed a few years ago, back when she was running Booksy, but which we never pursued. A year ago, when I published the first edition, I gave myself a fancy title such as "publishing news curator", which I have since quietly dropped. Curation, I think, applies only when the whole is larger than the parts, when disparate things are brought together (arts, performances, information), and a new perspective or experience emerges that is distinct from its constituents. That is not what this newsletter aspires to be. Every fortnight, I collect links in a somewhat magpie fashion from various feeds and from across the internet and assemble them here. These things interest me, and by extension, I hope they interest you. It was something I started doing out of curiosity, a way for me to document the goings-on in this field, to share them with others. However, now that a year has passed, perhaps it's time for me to think about what more this newsletter should be. Perhaps it should be a work of curation - fewer but more carefully selected articles, with more in-depth engagement with them? Perhaps each newsletter should have a theme? Fewer pictures and a more condensed style? Write to me with your ideas. 

That said, onward!  Today (May 8), the trial court will hear the plagiarism case against Chetan Bhagat filed by Anvita Bajpai. The issue began on February 22 when Bajpai served Bhagat a legal notice claiming that his book, One Indian Girl, was plagiarised from her story, "Drawing Parallels". She alleged that she gave Bhagat her anthology of short stories, Life, Odds & Ends, in 2014 and he copied the "emotional flow" of the story in his book,  published in 2016. When he denied the allegations in March, Bajpai went to court. On April 25, a Bengaluru City Civil Court issued an ex parte order (without hearing Bhagat's lawyers) halting the sales of One Indian Girl. Bhagat's counsel appealed the decision in the Karnataka High Court, and hence, the trial court will hear the case today instead of the scheduled date in June. The case does not seem to be in favour of Bajpai, as legal experts point out that though both stories share similar plots - independent-minded women have to choose between three men at a critical juncture in their lives - there does not seem to be adequate grounds to prove that it has been copied. Was it merely a coincidence that both stories have similar plots and a similar technique (plenty of internal dialogue and flashbacks)? Well, it is hard to say. On the one hand, it is possible that Bhagat read the Bajpai's story and decided (either consciously or subconsciously) to reinvent the plot on his own terms. On the other, it is equally possible that both stories are so generic that they share common themes and so seem similar. We'll know which way the court swings soon enough. Speaking of copyright, another plagiarism case that made headlines a few weeks ago has ended with something of a whimper. Suchitra Vijayan, an author and lawyer from Chennai, alleged in March this year that Pradeep Damodaran's book, Borderlands: Travels Along India's Boundaries, was copied from a book she had been working on from 2012. However, it is important to note that this allegation was made a few days before the book even hit stores, and Vijayan's accusation was made on the basis of the book's title, subtitle, and blurb, and not its contents. The two parties have since agreed to settle the matter outside of court, though Vijayan still stands by her claims. Also, in case copyright intrigue in your thing, may I just Ian McEwan's "My Purple-Scented Novel"? Also, do check out the article in The Atlantic about the Google book scanning case - it beautiful sums up what was lost in the battle to keep one company from monopolising all the world's knowledge. 

And to wind things up, here's a fun piece of trivia. It is believed that both Cervantes and Shakespeare died on 23 April, 1616, which is why 23 April is celebrated as World Book Day or Copyright Day. However, this isn't true. Spain was using the Gregorian calendar and England was using the Julian calendar at that time, so they probably died ten days apart. William Wordsworth too died on 23 April, a good 234 years later.  

Have a good week everyone! Write to me at chitra@thecleancopy.com.

Chitralekha Manohar