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Amrita Tripathi

Writer/ Journalist/ Time Traveller

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Blog posts January 2016

On publishers and making India Read

January 11, 2016

India’s publishers are determined to make you read more books in 2016

There’s plenty of change coming, predict three leading publishers, who are convinced they can rebuild – or grow from scratch – the reading habit in the country.
 
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Here’s how the year in publishing is looking to Karthika VK, publisher and chief editor, HarperCollins India; Diya Kar Hazra, Publisher, Pan Macmillan India, and Chiki Sarkar, founder-publisher, Juggernaut. Excerpts from three conversations.

On whether there’s room for all kinds of books any more:

Karthika: It has been dispiriting, watching sales of literary fiction slide, which to my mind is that part of the list that takes genuine risks, finds new voices, publishes work that challenges existing notions about life and literature – in short, the kind of books that should be in the front of shelves, not tucked away at the back.

The good news is that narrative non-fiction has gone up rapidly in the reading stakes. And there is a new spirit of ambition and enterprise that has begun to inform this genre, with the result that some of the best and most incisive writing is located here.

Sarkar: I do think not enough people are reading and I am not sure I have a cohesive argument about why this is the case. But again (there are) key issues – subjects for books, outreach, lack of effective communication, lack of leisure culture in India, where most things are seen as instrumental. What’s interesting is that when a book is a hit it sells at numbers higher than ever.

Kar Hazra: Oh there’ll never be enough people reading – publishers will always feel that way – and I wish our literacy rate was better, but I think there are plenty of people reading in India. And our reading is far more varied now. There are also more people reading online content on their smartphones. So the challenge is to seduce a growing reading public to books, when readers are less confined to books than ever before. The best literary festivals are about writers and their work, and it’s about ideas. In a world where books are competing with a range of other platforms/distractions – social media, gaming – anything that encourages reading is reason to celebrate.

On the the challenges in 2016:

Sarkar: Our announcement of the company and our catalogue announcement were both big – we trended on both announcements, which gives me hope for publishing. It’s nice to see folks get excited about books and publishing.

Authors are loving this – especially celebrities and debut writers.

Telecom, payment wallets, online retail, and online news sites have all shown interest in engaging with us in very exciting ways.

A whole bunch of independent children’s publishers want us to be their platform partner and I think we could do fun stuff with other publishers in the long run.

What it’s shown me as a book publisher is that the digital can open up interesting conversations and partnerships I simply won’t be able to have just doing physical (publishing).

Kar Hazra: There are more publishing houses in India now than there was five years ago. The market is crowded, with conglomerates and independents, giants and start-ups. But this challenge is an enormous opportunity for a mid-sized publisher like us, because we can focus on our books and authors and really nurture our lists (Picador, Pan and Macmillan).

We’re a small, passionate team that works very closely together – it’s one of the most collegial teams I’ve worked with – which makes all the difference. There’s lots to be done but we intend to publish every book better than the last. We have plenty of room to grow, and we plan to do that by focusing strategically, on core areas, and on quality over quantity. New talent has always excited me, so we’re looking forward to adding to our existing list of prize-winning authors and established names with outstanding discoveries.

Read more at: 
http://scroll.in/article/801588/indias-publishers-are-determined-to-make-you-read-more-books-in-2016

The unedited transcripts coming up... 

 

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This and That... to kick off the year

January 5, 2016

How's everyone settling into the new year? New rhythm? I still haven't found my stride yet, veering between productivity and major procrastination. I suppose that is the human condition!

So for the moment, am just keeping my promise about book reccos. These were (respectively) the last book I read in 2015 and the first of the sparkly new year!

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Well, I certainly came to this one late -- it was published in the early 1940s! What a miss. Such a phenomenal, powerful tale, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Even if you think that things have changed a whole lot since the '40s, and you're blithely uninterested in the human experience, or coming of age. This is a transformative book about the human spirit, the will to survive and the quest for a better life. I had no references for Brooklyn from way back when, but yes, it's true, things sure have changed. And yet, urban poverty, the grind for survival, that's something that echoes... and people can empathise if not identify with, an epoch and a continent away.

A huge thanks to Ananya and Ratna for lending me their well-thumbed copy. 

 

 

 

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

One wonders sometimes about fate and such things. With a surname like the author's perhaps this was inevitably a book (or at least a title!) that was preordained. The story is a marvellous one, transporting the reader to 19th century England and Japan -- I did have to keep flipping pages to keep track of the dates of different chapters (so thank goodness I was reading a physical book, not a Kindle version this time). 

The characters are superbly interesting and the story itself -- of clairvoyance and a police investigation, of racism and an immigrant experience, of loneliness and the hum-drum we so quickly let ourselves get sucked into -- was captivating. I wasn't entirely convinced by one plot point towards the end, but the ending itself perhaps was... inevitable. Let me know if this one catches your fancy. 

A big thanks to Pallavi for discerning that I was the reader for this one, and lending it to me.

 

 

Having lost track of what I'm meant to be reading next, I will leave you with this, which appeared in Scroll on the last day of the last year. 

Do let me know what you think, and here's wishing you a fabulous adventure-filled new year. Don't forget to stop by with your comments on what you're reading, or what you're waiting for.  

 

Three novels and an investigation to remember the year for

Reputed authors returned and didn’t disappoint; nor did a study of a murder and a trial.
 
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It’s hard to shortlist the best books of any given year, but in the interests of a curated, well-rounded list of wonderful Indian books published in English, here’s a closer look at what I enjoyed reading this past year. It’s a very subjective list, as any readers’ list is bound to be.

Indian publishing being what is, and our jobs being what they are in the media, I have also had the great good fortune of meeting all the writers on this list. Their work more than speaks for itself, and I am delighted to recount that the reading relationships also survived the real-life encounters intact. (It isn’t always the case, but that’s another story!)

She Will Build Him a City, Raj Kamal Jha
One of my favourite books this year. Many things about this book took my breath away, but what has really stayed with me is the story of a fundamental, powerful love – the mother towards her taciturn daughter, who has suffered beyond anything she can imagine. The giants that the daughter imagines being as a child – those giants aren’t just a comfort to the mother, but balm to the reader’s soul. I still find them comforting!

All of this is against the backdrop of a violent plot, which shines a mirror on a darker, more twisted urban reality than one we usually want to contemplate, morning news aside. The Metro plays a pivotal role in a story which tracks the changing face of a city that seems to be crumbling around us, its fabric rent by all kinds of brutalities. I may never take a Metro ride in quite the same way again… I plan to closely observe the brooding, quieter passengers, so consider this fair warning! The power of the story apart, there is so much beating heart in this one.
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More on Scroll here

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