Conference on challenges and opportunities in Indian publishing

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Delhi-based Ambedkar University recently organized a conference on publishing wherein industry stalwarts gave interesting insights into the future of publishing. Excerpts.

Bharat Ratna Dr BR Ambedkar Vishwavidyalaya, Delhi (Ambedkar University, Delhi or AUD for short) was established by the Government of the NCT of Delhi through an Act of Legislature, which began functioning in August 2008. The AUD is taking a collective challenge of making publishing in India’s various languages strong and sustainable. With this laudable goal, it embarks on a bold initiative to establish a School of Publishing Studies with undergraduate and specialized programs in publishing. Dr Shyam B Menon, vice chancellor has taken keen interest in initiating an academic programme in book publishing. He believes that the publishing industry is facing the challenges from the new technologies which have threatened the printed word.

As a first step in this direction, the University hosted a two day conference titled ‘Publishing in India: Challenges and Opportunities’ on January 17-18, 2011. The conference was intended as a venue for an exchange of information between academics and practitioners from the publishing world and broadly defined to include peripheral activities such as ‘outsourcing’ which are gradually blurring the traditional boundaries of the publishing industry. This conference attempted to address critical issues like New Age of Publishing: evolving structures, demands, and opportunities; Scholarly publishing: best practices in acquisitions, evaluations, enhancement, and marketing; The Designer as author: the role of book design in communication; Editing in the current and future publishing industry in India; ‘Publishing’ activities in the periphery; New technology and publishing: The worlds of Amazon’s ‘Kindle’, Apple’s ‘iPad’ and Google; University-based Publishing Studies programme: challenges, models; and Design and staffing of short-term programs for publishing professionals.

Others who were associated in this programme were the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Simon Fraser University; German Book Office, New Delhi; and Sage Publishers.

Dr Rowland Lorimer, director, Master of Publishing Programme, Simon Fraser University, presented a paper on ‘Developing the Simon Fraser University Programme within the context of book publishing policy in Canada; the policy’s current impact on writers and publishers in local and global markets’ while Payal Kumar, vice president, Editorial and Production, Sage Publications (India) Pvt Ltd expressed her views on ‘Editorial Challenges Now and in the Future.’

Besides, Laua Bysalko, development associate, Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Simon Fraser University; founding partner, Idefix & Co. and Sirish Rao, development associate, Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, Simon Fraser University; founding partner, Idefix & Co gave a brief history and snapshot of the Indian children’s book industry, especially in English. They highlighted the idea of childhood in India, and attitudes and trends in children’s literature linked to this. The marriage of text and visual that is particular to children’s books, the importance of ‘Indian-ness’ for Indian children, and the role of fantasy and pleasure in children’s books, were also discussed.

Robert E Baensch of Baensch International Group Ltd, New York; discussed ‘Evolving structures, demands, and opportunities in the New Age of Publishing,’ focusing on the path that might lie ahead for AUD in terms of academic publishing and the industry in terms of publishing in general.

While, Urvashi Butalia, publisher, Zuban, painted an interesting portrayal of ‘The Wonder of Independent Publishing in India’ She talked about the many-dimensional world of independent publishers, the societal and artistic role for them, and what it means for authors.

Other speakers included Dr Sugata Ghosh, vice president, commissioning books and journals, Sage Publications (India). And Ulhas Anand, senior product manager, Impelsys India, Bangalore who examined emerging trends and their relevance in a consumer focused publishing model.

Dr Sham Menon, vice chancellor of the AUD expressed hope that soon they shall be able to prepare a model for studies in book publishing which will be relevant to the present needs of the society. He expressed hope that cooperation from the industry will make the initiative a success.

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