“Books Are The Best Medium For A Well-Educated And Well-Aware Society”

shares Yuvraj Malik, Director, National Book Trust, India in conversation with All About Book Publishing, while sharing his views on the importance of books, book fairs and India as Guest of Honour Country at various international book fairs. Excerpts.

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The National Book Trust, India (NBT) has been working for the promotion of books and reading in the country for the last more than sixty years. In its endeavour to make good and reasonably-priced reading material available to all sections of the society, NBT organizes book fairs and exhibitions, takes books to remote areas through its mobile exhibition vans, and ensures that books are available in all Indian languages and dialects to cater to every individual. NBT organizes the annual New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF), which is one of the biggest book fairs in the world. As the nodal body for the promotion of books, both in India and abroad, NBT participates in a number of international book fairs across the globe. The NDWBF in 2022 will be themed on ‘India@75’ with France as the Guest of Honour Country. Here, Yuvraj Malik, Director, NBT shares more about NBT’s ventures.

As Director NBT, what are your objectives? How do you plan to achieve them?

Malik: We are looking forward to scale up the NDWBF to double its size. The fair will promote award-winning books and authors in a bigger way. Even the stalls at the fair will be clustered according to specific genres. There will be awards entitled Best Stalls and Best Stall Designs given to both national and international exhibitors during the fair. The end of the fair will be marked with a fun-filled ‘Closing Ceremony.’ We also plan to introduce a designated media lounge for media persons.

We are planning to focus more on B class cities across the country, with additional book fairs being planned in the coming months at Pune, Nagpur, Dehradun, Varanasi and other cities. We have to our credit 31 titles in Bodo language for children of different age groups. During the current year, we plan to hold a translation workshop to develop at least 50 more titles in Bodo language.

In order to integrate the North-East into the mainstream, with its rich cultures and literatures, we are in the process to soon open another NBT Regional Office in Guwahati to bring a cultural synthesis with the North-East Region. As of now, as you may be aware, we have regional offices in Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru (covering east, west and south); and the northern regional office being in Delhi itself, within the head office. In addition, we have 11 Book Promotion Centres/Bookshops across India. I must add that I am proud of leading my team of experts in editorial, exhibition, production, sales, distribution and logistics to remote areas. The team is the silent force behind our success!

What is the importance of book fairs for cross-cultural collaborations and creating empathetic societies?

Malik: Book fairs, whether held across India or in various international forums, brings together publishers, authors, writers – all working towards the dissemination of education, knowledge and reading in the young minds. There is an aim to develop the reading culture right in the foreground of Indian educational and intellectual dialogue and policy, by engaging the authors, publishers and readers in a meaningful dialogue through various book promotional activities. A well-read mind gives rise to a well-read society. And when we take the Indian books and publishing to a different culture on various international platforms, we accept and acknowledge the culture of that specific region, and we permeate the Indian culture there, thereby establishing sustainable collaborations for better cultural and literary exchanges.

Share your views on the New Delhi World Book Fair 2020 and targets for NDWBF 2021.

Malik: The New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) has been organised by the National Book Trust, India since the year 1972, and has by far been the most popular and enthusiastically visited book fair by lakhs of book lovers in Delhi and neighbouring areas. It is arguably the Asia’s biggest book fair, and among the top five in the world. As rightly desired by the Hon’ble HRD Minister at the inauguration of this year’s edition of NDWBF, we are striving to make it the world’s biggest book fair.

As for the 2021 edition of NDWBF, it will be organized from January 9-17,2021 at the newly constructed halls of Pragati Maidan, having all the modern facilities and an international flavour and ambience. In addition, NBT plans to organize the book fair in a manner that it appeals to younger generation as well as to our international visitors, and of course all the general visitors as well.

We will have children’s Authors corners, in addition to our regular Author’s corners, so that the young and budding authors get a platform and encouragement to dream big, and to support them in their endeavour to become future authors. We will also have a separate section where the award-winning titles across India and in all genres and languages, are positioned in a special pavilion. We will further categorize and sub-categorise genres, so that it is easier for the visitors and book lovers to know where they exactly want to go and which books to look for. And we will further extend facilities for the entry of senior citizens, differently-abled and school children. You will expect to see a better and newer version of NDWBF in 2021.

India has been the Guest of Honour Country at different international book fairs, how has this affected overall exchange and trade?

Malik: It is a matter of great pride and honour that India was announced as the Guest of Honour Country at three major international book fairs across the world –Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2019 (one of the biggest book fairs of the Emirati world), Guadalajara International Book Fair, Mexico 2019 (the biggest book fairs of the Spanish-speaking world), and Livre Paris 2020 (as part of the Joint Statement signed between President of France and Prime Minister of India). And for the National Book Trust India – being the nodal agency under the Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India – it is an occasion of great opportunity and responsibility to coordinate and execute the Guest of Honour Country Presentations in the three countries, across three different hemispheres of the world.

Some important highlights at Abu Dhabi and Mexico are:

Abu Dhabi: NBT organised an India-Arab Publishers’ Meet with the participation of 30 representatives of Arab World from countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Oman, UAE, and others. 25 Indian publishers participated and established business contacts. This was the first time that such a forum was made available to Indian publishers. Secondly, engagement with Indian Diaspora community of Writers – which provided a unique opportunity for the UAE- based Indian writers of languages such as Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Konkani, Urdu, Punjabi, to interact with each other and project their creative work. With the result, Indian publishers reported brisk sales as well as bulk orders, and also translation agreements; which opened a new window to them in UAE, besides Sharjah.

Mexico: India, being the first Asian country to be designated as the Guest Country in the biggest fair of the Spanish speaking world, the opportunity proved to be quite an eye-opener. 50 events with the participation of nearly 40 Indian and Mexican writers, scientists, artists made a big splash and created a wide spread coverage in the Spanish speaking media. India Bookstore was a unique concept and had Books of nearly 40 publishers in English and Spanish for sale. According to an estimate 9000 plus copies got sold through the store with people looking for books on Indian science, mathematics, besides on Yoga, spirituality, Gandhi and Tagore. Participating Indian publishers reported high-value business deals. NBT is also actively negotiating copyright arrangements with Mexican publishers.

The book promotions and cultural exchange take place on various levels which include translation and copyright exchange, academic and literary dialogues, dissemination of information about Indian literary and cultural landscape through various media platforms etc. and these go a long way in creating an engaging and positive ambience for fostering trade as well as cultural exchanges and a greater cultural synthesis between India and other countries.

Share the highlights of India presentation at the Paris Book Fair.

Malik: During the visit of the Hon’ble President of France, Emmanuel Macron, to India from March 10-12,2018, an India-France Joint Statement was released by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, and the Hon’ble President of France, whereby India was accorded the status of Guest of Honour Country at Livre Paris (Paris Book Fair, March 20-23,2020), and France as the Guest of Honour at New Delhi World Book Fair 2022 (organised by NBT). The National Book Trust, India has been designated as the nodal agency to coordinate the Guest Country Presentation.

At the Livre Paris 2020, an aesthetically-designed INDIA PAVILION is being created by National Book Trust, India combining the essence of Indian tradition and culture, fused with the modern and technologically-advanced facet of our nation. The design of the INDIA PAVILION is based on the concept of presenting Indian culture through the idea of a landscape of languages that embodies India’s multiculturalism through rich and diverse literary and oral practices. The Pavilion design is an acknowledgement and celebration of the evolution of the civilization in the subcontinent and its culture around knowledge articulation and sharing from the prehistoric times to the contemporary era.

There will be an installation on Mahatma Gandhi, with an exhibition on content based on correspondence between Mahatma Gandhi, Romain Rolland and other French writers/journalists. In addition, a special exhibit of Indian books translated into French will be put up inside the INDIA PAVILION. There will be Rights exhibition as well and publishers will be housed inside the Pavilion through specially-designed stands. To present the Indian foray into digital content, on a huge digital LED wall moving animation depicting lines of poetry from various Indian languages will keep playing as well as a digital exhibition on ‘Environment and Climate Change’ as exhibited through children’s books illustrations from NBT archives will be put up.

Since NBT works as per its mandate of ‘Promotion of Indian Books Abroad’, we are looking at the various business opportunities for all Indian publishers at the book fair in addition to promotion and showcasing of rich Indian publishing industry – the books in its various genres and languages; the contemporary India with its promise of development, as also to showcase the Indian writers/authors, artists, performers, literary aspects, science and technology, popular science communication, growing Indian children’s literature and much more!

What all translations into French are being planned?

Malik: As per practice, National Book Trust India – in all its Guest of Honour Country Presentations in various countries – translates a few titles into the official language of that country in order to cater to the readers of that country and as a pre-curser to augment the exchange of translation rights in the particular book fair, paving way for other publishers to start business as well.

National Book Trust, India is publishing 10 children’s books into French language for sale and further collaboration with French language publishers. National Book Trust, India is also supporting a group of 30 authors from different fields like children’s literature, science, academics, media etc.

Share the details of NBT book sales for last financial year and the next year targets.

Malik: NBT does not work with commercial motives, instead it endeavours to make good reading material, on affordable prices, available to the various strata of the society in order to promote reading and book culture, and in turn a well-read society. With this aim in mind, NBT is reaching out to Panchayats and Anganwadis as well, and in the year 2019, we have sold about 2.5-crore copies. We have covered far flung areas covering lakhs of kilometres from Chamoli (Uttarakhand) in the northern Himalayas to southern parts of Kerala, Puducherry, from Kutch (Gujarat) in the west to Meghalaya, Tripura in the east, and also to the central most part of India like Dantewara, Bastar in Chhattisgarh, and so on.

Do share your views about NBT books as part of government’s Samagra Shiksha programme.

Malik: NBT books provide knowledge beyond textbooks to keep the students up-to-date with the fast changing world around them and also makes the children aware about the culture and diversity of India. On the other hand, NBT books also make reading interesting through lucid presentation of the textbook concepts. You can say that NBT books are perfect supplement for the textbooks, and that is why they are recommended under this programme along with other publications.

Your views on importance of translations.

Malik: From ancient times, the importance of translations has been evident, whether it has been documenting the oral traditions, or retelling of popular mythological tales with local flavour thrown in–the need to understand and promulgate thoughts and words into a language that is understood by a section of people has existed. We, at NBT, have been working on this since long, and we are proud to inform readers through you that NBT has published books in more than 50 Indian languages & dialects, including tribal languages. We have books for all and in their own mother tongue. We also publish books in our popular series called AadanPradan, wherein we translate and publish literary fiction of one language into another, and further into as many Indian languages as there are.

In addition, I would also like to add that we have translated many popular NBT titles in various foreign languages, and have translations in all the six official languages of the UN–Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian,Spanish –thereby catering through translations to even the foreign readers.

What are the innovative ways in which NBT plans to promote love for reading?

Malik: Learning is a never-ending process, and books are the best medium to increase our knowledge and awareness, and be a well-educated and well-aware society. Despite the so-called technological and digital impact, the printed word is still popular among the readers. The rising footfall in NDWBF every year proves this. Our Pustak Parikramas (Mobile Exhibition Vans) reach books to all districts and small towns. Through Readers’ Clubs, we hold a variety of interactive and interesting activities with students to encourage them to read books and inculcate reading habit in them. NBT also plans to organise more book-related activities, as well as book fairs and exhibitions in the remotest of areas in India, so as to reach the grassroots and popularise the need to read and be aware in these times. I do believe that one book can change your life.

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