JBM 2024: focusing on literary trends and future of publishing!

Jaipur BookMark (JBM) has emerged as a focal point for the South Asian publishing industry and is the place to be for those on the lookout for an “edge” of opportunities, new ideas and fruitful collaborations. Here, Manisha Chaudhry, JBM Director, shares more about this event in conversation with Varsha Verma.

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Jaipur BookMark brings together stakeholders of the book trade from across the world – from publishers to literary agents, writers, translators, translation agencies and booksellers. It gives them an opportunity not just to “talk” business (through panel discussions and roundtables), but also provides the right and fruitful atmosphere to inspire one-on-one meetings and networking. JBM 2024 was held against the backdrop of the magnificent Jaipur Literature Festival, from February 1-5, 2024 and delved deep into the business of books with those who take it further.

Here, Manisha Chaudhry, JBM Director, shares more on this conclave of the publishing industry,

Major highlights..

“The major highlights were a combination of two kinds of things. One was that we looked at issues which are going to be affecting the future of publishing. So we had sessions on AI, we had sessions on the relationship that is growing between OTT and publishing. We looked at how bookselling and curation is changing at a time when Amazon is very much part of our lives and what are physical bookstores doing so that they continue to attract footfalls,” said Manisha.

“Additionally, we also had some sessions which were celebrating milestones of important publishing colleagues. So we had 50 years of feminist publishing, where we had Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon in conversation with R Sivapriya and it was widely appreciated by younger colleagues. We learnt more about Seagull Books, that completed 40 years last year with a wonderful conversation between Naveen Kishore and Sanjoy Roy. Besides this, the phenomenally successful Malayalam publishing company DC Books celebrated its 50th birthday in 2023. The inspiring story of its journey was shared by Ravi Deecee in conversation with Karthika VK,” she added.

“Of course, we also had sessions which focused on translation which is an important part of the Jaipur BookMark. There was also a lively session about the evolving lists of Indian language publishers. We were also very pleased to feature JCB prize winner, Tamil author Perumal Murugan and his long time publisher Kannan Sundaram who runs Kalachuvadu talking about the making of such long lasting literary friendships while engaging in conversation with Vivek Shanbhag, the eminent Kannada writer,” added Manisha.

JBM Rights Catalogue…

This year, JBM released the much awaited JBM Rights Catalogue for the year, featuring a variegated list of written works in Indian languages and English, highlighting their availability for rights sales and exchange in the Indian subcontinent and globally, across platforms (films/OTT/audio books/ebooks).

“We brought out a catalogue of about 50 titles from 5 languages and 12 publishers and that made quite a splash in the sense that there was a lot of interest from publishers for rights exchange,” shared Manisha. “We had a Spanish publisher, besides Indian language publishers representing Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, Hindi, Bangla and English.”

Other interesting sessions …

“We had a wonderful session called Beauty and the Book, where Sunandini Banerjee (Seagull), Ahlawat Gunjan (Penguin Random House), Philip Watson (Thames & Hudson), and Svein Størksen (Norway) were in conversation with Priya Kapoor of Roli Books. The book as an object of enduring beauty takes shape under the discerning eye of outstanding designers. This inspiring session talked about the creative process and the outcome that we get to hold and cherish,” she shared.

“Then we had a session on dictionaries, which was again very interesting because dictionaries is something that all of us use. Meeta Lall, Diana Mickevi?iene, and Oscar Pujol were in conversation with Udaya Narayana Singh. Lexicographers are unsung heroes who toil to expand the universe of languages. Translators, linguists, readers and writers all owe them a huge debt. We started off with a film clip which was dedicated to the memory of Arvind Kumar ji who had done the Samantar Kosh, the first-ever thesaurus in Hindi or any modern Indian language, which is now available online,” she shared.

We also had a session on podcasts, which had William Dalrymple and Amrita Tripathi and Richard Osman, all of whom have interesting podcasts and it was moderated by Hemali Sodhi. It examined how podcasts are becoming increasingly important to connect readers and books, because a good podcast will give recommendations or will just talk about the book in a very exciting way and then possibly interest a reader to look at that subject carefully,” she added.

“There were international publishers in sessions such as Confluences: Multilingual Publishing In The Global South, where we had Anitah Aujayeb, Ibrahim Waheed, Bhuchung and D. Sonam, in conversation with Chandler Crawford. This thoughtful panel of publishers hailed from lands as diverse as Mauritius and Tibet. There was an exciting Publishers’ Roundtable where Indian and international publishers spoke about their lists, ” she added.

“All in all, we had 25 sessions with around 90 people across. Some of them were common with the Jaipur Literature Festival, while some were not. The Festivals Directors Roundtable was also held on the last day, where we had festival directors of 22 different events. It gives a chance to the directors to exchange ideas and learn from each other,” shared Manisha.

On curating the lineup of authors and speakers for the event…

“From the start of the year, one keeps one’s eyes and ears open, trying to catch the straws in the wind to find out what is new and exciting, which is being talked about and published. Besides, we also honor the stalwarts and acknowledge their contribution to the industry as we want the new generation of editors and publishers to know their stories. So, basically, we connect with our roots but also look to the future,” shared Manisha.

“Some things will bear repetition. Obviously you talk about book selling and marketing, editing and translation every year. It’s a practice and every practitioner brings something new to the table. So when you have a Daisy Rockwell on one side and we have Mini Krishnan who is doing much to support translation through the Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation, that’s a different aspect of how translation is helped by such initiatives. And there is a new tech platform called Mozhi, being run by Suchitra Ramachandran, where anybody can post something that they write in Tamil, as well as they can translate interesting pieces from other languages into Tamil and put it up on the platform. Now that’s a new way of how people are translating and making their work available. Basically you just sort of keep your awareness open and alive and listen to a lot of what people are saying. And then you figure out what it is that will have lasting impact, and is not a passing fad,” she added.

USP of JBM…

“The very atmosphere of Jaipur Literature Festival and the kind of ambience it creates, engaging with ideas as well as the role of publishers in helping the spread of new ideas is what makes JBM so special. It is a business conference, which leaves a lasting impression on the participants. It creates a platform which is part business and part literary and it creates an atmosphere of friendliness which is good for business,” she added.

Future of JBM…

“We will continue to do what we are doing right, like the interesting sessions we have been curating but we may change some formats to increase the business potential for our participants,” concluded Manisha.

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