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– Relevance of military books in today’s scenario

Defence writing is now acquiring a new genre. “Even the style of defence writing has undergone a change. Earlier it used to be a very formal, stereotyped which was targeted to a niche audience. Now we have different writers coming up from journalistic backgrounds, who write in a different easy-paced style which appeals to all,” tells Rajan Arya of Pentagon Press.

Status of books on defence in India…

“The books on defence in India have acquired greater popularity in the past decade or so. There are new authors who are coming up, there is a greater range of titles, and even the readership has enhanced considerably. Initially, most defence books were by foreign writers, or a handful of Indian ones and had a very restricted audience, largely amongst the defence and security community. Now defence books have acquired their own distinctive niche and got a new-found status. Many defence writers, such as GD Bakshi, Gurmeet Kanwal etc have gone on to become well-known figures based on their books,” tells Rajan. While Rohan Vij, director marketing, sales & business development adds, “Defence books are generally authored by research scholars and Armed Forces Officers from reputed Think Tanks and Universities. These books have limited readership and hence leading to restricted publications.”

Market size…

“Market size is restricted to Libraries run by Think Tanks, Institutes and Universities. There are very few individual buyers for such books since they all use it as reference material from affiliated institutes,” tells Rohan as a matter of fact.

But, defence writing has many different genres. “Military history is a field that is getting increased popularity (though we were the largest army of 26 lakh personnel who fought in Second World War but not much importance is given to the war though it shaped the world and even our Independence was indirectly the result of this war). In addition, defence and security analysis, especially threat analysis, has its own market after 9/11 and 26/11. It is worthy to note that there must be over 1000 titles on 9/11 but only 10 titles on 26/11. There are books on contemporary and futuristic warfare, encyclopaedias and compilations. There is even a new genre on military fiction emerging. Thus I will put that the market size is not that big,” ponders Rajan.

Vivek Garg of Manas Publications feels that the average number of copies sold for any such book remains as 1000 copies.

Importance of military books…

“Firstly, by encouraging these books by our own authors and through our own publishing houses, we encourage strategic thinking within the country. It is really unfortunate that we could not develop strategic culture in the country and there are literally very few Strategic Thinkers. We also present the Indian perspective to the world, and to a great deal contribute to the growth of strategic culture. Books on Indian Military history also create an awareness of our history and military culture which is essential for this generation. I think to some extent, these books, also shape the minds of policy makers, by providing inputs and different perspectives on defence and strategic issues,” shares Rajan.

While Rohan adds, “These books help in analysing various defence and foreign policies of the country and suggest measures to improve upon them. In the present scenario that exists in our sub-continent they are also helpful in forming counter terrorism / internal security policies for the country. Book on Military History also helps in educating the youth about the history of their country as well as lessons learnt during those battles.”

Adding further, Rajan says, “We can always learn from the past mistakes and make a significant contribution to raising public awareness about national security and defence issues. We can also encourage researchers to take on newer areas of research.”

Publication statistics…

“We publish a title a week which makes 52 titles a year; the print varies from few hundreds to few thousands. The prices of these titles varies from Rs 495 to 995,” shares Rajan.

Similarly, Vij Books also comes up with 40-50 new print titles and approx 30 eBooks per year. “The first print run is between 400-500 copies depending upon the subject. For certain lesser read subjects, we have resorted to Print On Demand. The price ranges from Rs 500 to 1000,” adds Rohan. While, Kalpana Shukla, managing director, Knowledge World, says that they publish around 50 titles in a year, for which the print runs is minimum 500 copies, though they also use POD sometimes. “The pricing for our books starts from Rs 600,” she adds.

Manas Publications publishes 20-25 books per year, with a print run of 500-1000 copies. “The price varies between Rs 500 and Rs 1000,” says Vivek.

Target audience…

Libraries, educational institutes and research scholars in this field are the audience for such books. “Politics, international relations, security studies, defence establishments, and think tanks are the main target audience,” shares Kalpana. “But, the target audience is no longer restricted to just the defence and security community, though they form a major share of our buyers. After the Kargil War, a new awareness has come about and many in India now follow defence issues closely,” tells Rajan.

Few bestsellers…

For Pentagon Press, Thought for Change: We can do it by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam is obviously one of the, bestsellers. “It needs no introduction as the book is a masterpiece. It covers 10 futuristic technologies which can take India to greater heights,” shares Rajan. For Vij Books, the bestsellers include Inside ISI – The Story and Involvement of the ISI in Afghan Jihad, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, 26/11 and the Future of Al Qaeda. “The book has been authored by S K Datta, ex CBI director. The focus of this book was on ISI as an instrument of spreading jihad culture in Pakistan and elsewhere,” adds Rohan. Another bestseller is A Talent for War – The Military Biography of Lt Gen Sagat Singh. “The book has been authored Maj Gen (Retd) Randhir Sinh, the ADC of Lt Gen Sagat Singh. The book brings out the military leadership qualities of the General during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War,” tells Rohan.

For Manas Publications, The Writing on Wall: India Checkmates USA 2017 by General S Padmanabhan is the bestseller. “This book is set in 2017, showing a war between India and USA,” shares Vivek.

For Knowledge World, ICON – Marshall of the Indian Air Force, an authorised Biography by (Late) Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, is the bestseller. “The book captures the story of one man who has fought the Second World War, and led the Indian Air Force in the 1965 war with Pakistan to a successful victory for India. The book is a ‘must’ for all, especially the passing out cadets from various academies,” shares Kalpana. “Publishing for a specialised audience has personally been a learning experience, especially with meeting intellectual personalities,” she concludes.

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