Publishing Next 2016: better than the best!


The 7th edition of the Annual Publishing Next conference was held from September 15-17, 2016 at the Bolgatty Palace and Island Resort, Kochi. This edition of the conference was a 3-day event unlike past editions, and featured new formats such as masterclasses and specially curated networking sessions. The agenda of the Publishing Next conference covered several topics that are of concern to publishers, with special attention given to translations in Indian languages; technologies that impact publishing, such as customer analytics and digital publishing; and, trends that are seen in the publishing business today, such as advances in the dissemination of higher education content. The Publishing Next Industry Awards were presented in seven categories.


The first day of the conference was especially reserved for masterclasses. These were introduced in this edition of the conference to cater to the needs of publishers and authors, who had, during past conferences, requested longer workshop-like sessions to help them understand specific areas of publishing. Four such masterclasses were held: Publishing 101 conducted by Ritu Menon, founder of Women Unlimited, an associate of Kali; After Writing, What Next? conducted by Jayapriya Vasudevan, partner at Books@Jacaranda, a Bangalore-based literary agency; The Mechanics of Editing conducted by Esha Beteille, publisher, Social Science Press; and Understanding Copyright and the Rights Trade conducted by Manasi Subramaniam, commissioning editor and rights manager at HarperCollins India.

Inaugural function…

At the inaugural function, Dr. Thomas Isaac, Minister of Finance, Government of Kerala, lamented the fact that the growth in production of books in India far lagged behind the country’s growth in GDP. That there was a spurt in production during the last few years was a source of encouragement, he said, although there was much that needed to be done.

In his keynote address, scholar, editor-publisher, translator, lexicographer & bibliophile and publisher, Thema, Samik Bandhyopadhyay stated that bookstores had a major role to play in developing a love for reading among neo-literates. Bookstores, he said, allowed people to touch and feel books, discover titles they probably never had heard of, and develop an attachment with a tangible object. Online buying robbed people of the joy of buying a book, he stated.

While, Leonard Fernandes, co-founder of the Publishing Next conference spoke of the conference as platform which there could be discussion of both the challenges as also the threats facing publishing today.

Various sessions…

In the panel discussion on “Translations: Market and Profession,” the speakers underlined the need for publishers to be more proactive about the texts that were being translated. This session was chaired by Mini Krishnan, Editor, OUP.

In the session “Where Must We Invest Next?” the speakers tried to pinpoint one or two areas of focus that would help publishers grow their businesses. K Satyanarayan, co-founder, New Horizon Media, who chaired this session, said it was the duty of publishers to understand what readers wanted to read.

The panel discussion on book retail, titled “Imagining Book Retail & Distribution” was chaired by Ankit Pahwa, vendor manager, India at Rakuten Kobo Inc. The panel identified bottlenecks in publishing and identified online buying habits as probably the single major factor that is unravelling physical book sales.

In their discussion titled “Higher Education Publishing: Challenges and Opportunities”, the panellists discussed the impact of new technology-aided methods of instruction that were being used today and how these could be co-opted into the business models of traditional publishers in the higher educational sector.

Informative conversations…

In his conversation with Leela Samson, dancer, choreographer, instructor and writer, and Vidhya Rao, singer, author and consulting editor, Orient Blackswan; Ganesh Devy, chairman of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, discussed issues related to dance, music and publishing during what was a very enjoyable conversation. The importance of “being in the moment” was discussed, as was the need to perfect one’s craft, and the need to be true to oneself.

In a similar freewheeling discussion with Ritu Menon, publisher, Women Unlimited, the author and poet, Shafi Shauq, spoke about his work, which he described as cathartic, given his experiences as a resident of Kashmir.

While, in his conversation with Prashasti Rastogi, director, German Book Office, New Delhi; Ravi Singh, publishing director, Speaking Tiger, spoke about his initiation into publishing, how he would never label any genre as untouchable, yet would never compromise on the language and quality of books as is sometimes now done with popular mass fiction, and his belief that far from being in a crisis, the Indian publishing industry was flourishing with equal space afforded for both Indian language and English books.

Besides, Makenzy Orcel, the Haitian author was in conversation with Leonard Fernandes, co-founder of Publishing Next, with Dorothee Gieux, of the French Book Office and the Embassy of France in India, as interpreter. Orcel, whose book Les Immortelles, is being published in English in India, spoke at length on the role of the author in society.

Workshops & more…

The conference witnessed three workshops: Accounting for Publishers; Understanding & Using Consumer Data and Digital Publishing.

There were curated networking sessions, conducted for the first time, and attended by 30 participants.

Publishing Next Industry Awards

These Awards, instituted in 2014, were presented in 7 categories: Printed Book of the Year (Narratives for Indian Modernity: The Aesthetic of Brij Mohan Anand, published by Harper Collins); Printed Children’s Book of the Year (Book of Beasts: An A to Z Rhyming Bestiary, published by Duckbill Books); Digital Book of the Year (Jadav and the Tree-Place, Pratham Books); Book Cover of the Year (Kalkatta, designed by Pinaki De); Printed Book (Indian Languages) of the Year (Hoshiarpur Aur Anya Kavitayein, Copper Coin Publishing); Bookstore of the Year (Walking Bookfairs, Bhuvaneshwar) and Publisher of the Year (Yoda Press).

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