Knowledge should be free flowing!

Ravi Ahuja, Shankars Book Agency Pvt Ltd shares his views on the customs duty levied on imported books in India.


As we all are aware, Government of India, in their budget, announced a 5% customs duty on imported books on July 5, 2019. (It actually comes to 6.5-7% as customs charge additional incidental charges such as IGST, cess, etc.)

The plea given was to encourage Indian book publishing but like many others of this book industry I too felt the need to highlight and apprise the reader that this logic does not hold true. The very thought of paying customs duty on imported books seems highly illogical and bizarre.

The most important aspect of the book is the content which is derived from niche research worldwide and authored books are the most sound and economical way a library or an individual would like to have in their collection as these books are read by the scientists, lawyers, professors or doctors, etc, who need to know the latest developments worldwide.

Needless to say that almost all renounced scientists, doctors and Nobel Laureates are associated with internationally reputed publishers as they get their books published through them for these publishers have a pan world market presence and thus are able to spread the knowledge of these authors.

As it is, the book industry is going though its worst times owing to funds crunch Institutes are experiencing but the cascading effect of customs duty has already started showing. The book distributors who used to import, stock and sell are hesitant and almost stopped ordering books from publishers for the new titles, resulting in depriving enthusiastic readers of the fast growing changes in technology, medicine etc., including budding new students who aspire to be tomorrow’s leading doctors, scientists etc

At no stage we are doubting the knowledge of our homegrown authors but it is observed that many a times these good Indian authors also get their books published from International publishers. On one hand the Indian Government wants India to be educational hub while on other such discouragements deter the industry. Our Federation of Publishers and Book-sellers Association in India (FPBAI) and other associations have made representations to the concerned ministry but till date no relief has been announced.
All I can say is we expect the GOI to be sensitive towards this aspect and look forward to the much-needed relief for the entire reading community. Knowledge should be free flowing. There should be ways to encourage this free flow, rather than restrict it.

Shortlist for the Booker Prize announced

The Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English speaking world, which has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over 50 years. Awarded annually to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK or Ireland. The shortlist for 2019 includes Margaret Atwood, The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus); Lucy Ellmann, Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press); Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton); Chigozie Obioma, An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown); Salman Rushdie, Quichotte (Jonathan Cape) and Elif Shafak, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking).

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