“Higher education in India is going to see an unprecedented change in the coming years”

opines Pratap Vaish of Sultan Chand & Sons. Pvt Ltd, while sharing his views on the academic publishing in India.

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Sultan Chand & Sons, was established in 1950, by Late Sh. Sultan Chand, son of Late Master Amir Chand. The company’s values and ethics have been going on now generation after generation. They have been publishing books for all Indian Universities in the field of Management, Accountancy, Law, Economics, Mathematical Sciences and many more but now they are gearing up for the revolution of the industry. Here, Pratap Vaish of Sultan Chand & Sons Pvt Ltd shares more on the academic publishing in India. Excerpts.

AABP: What is the future of academic publishing in India in the context of the key challenges being faced by publishing industry and publishers today?

Pratap: The key challenge that the publishing industry faces today is to keep pace with the rapid advancement in technology and the amount of free content available online. eBooks, audio books and interactive 3D books are rapidly gaining popularity among the users and are set to change the face of publishing industry.

Another major problem publishers now face is being able to generate sufficient revenue through e-books sales. Many people expect the internet to be free and therefore it is difficult for publishers to get consumers to pay for their books and protect their intellectual property.

Thus, publishers are under financial and operational pressure to maintain multiple streams of revenue and manage their titles across an array of formats and channels. With the emergence of headless & hybrid Content Management System for digital content management, technology may eventually emerge to help publishers to manage their broadening sales and marketing operations and optimize their overall portfolio to maximize revenue.

Lastly, though digital content is rapidly gaining popularity but at the same time, this is giving rise to piracy for traditional publishers. Ethics have to play a very important role in the revolution of the industry.

AABP: How is technology changing the publishing landscape?

Pratap: Technology has opened up new frontiers in the field of publishing with significant advances in the last decade.

Today, with the proliferation of smartphones, everyone has access to a whole library in their pocket. People can read their favorite books at anytime, anywhere. As a result, publishers are now focusing a great portion of their energy on e-books. Many classics have been converted into e-books, making them more attractive for a younger audience.

Audiobooks are another driving force in the publishing business, especially with the ubiquity of smartphones, audiobooks have risen in popularity. Audiobooks allow people to explore books that they otherwise would not have time for.

AABP: In your opinion, what would be future of higher ed in the next decade, with a special focus on the next 3-5 years?

Pratap: Higher education in India is going to see an unprecedented change in the coming years. Every aspect of higher education shall be reorganised and remodelled. International collaborations and impact driven research in the fields of STEAM, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are going to take the front seats. Enterprise education shall take a lead with focus on enhancing job creation and employability. Multi-disciplinary research is critical for today as well as for the next 3-5 years. New courses are being introduced in these areas which are opening varied paths for the students as well as posing new challenges for the publishing industry. With these challenges coming up, the publication sector needs to get future ready with novel learning frontiers which inculcate innovation and self learning by leading students ahead of textbooks-based curriculum. Digital learning technologies are also set to make an important component of education and learning. Now, there is widespread global experimentation as a result of Coronavirus pandemic. If remote teaching proved success for each and every unit of global education, it would lead to a revolution in the sector. There were and are many teachers who have never used even the basic audio-visual equipment.

AABP: How has the industry changed in last 10 years and where is it headed?

Pratap: The last 10 years have been turbulent for publishers, writers, and agents. Technology has spurred several trends that are shaping the business and the art of our literary industry.For publishers, these trends offer a peek into the future and some insight about what to expect, how to prepare for growth in a shifting landscape. When the Kindle first debuted in 2007, it was heralded as a revolution in publishing.Readers and publishers alike were eager to take advantage of a new platform and digital books took off in a big way. However, in recent years, the explosive growth of eBooks seems to be flattening out. This decline could point to the fact that some eBook adopters defected to audio formats. With virtual reality, students are able to visit places and see 3-D planets and animals in the comfort of their home and tomorrow is not far when students will be able to do experiments by virtually creating science and technology labs at their home.

Thus, publishers have to keep pace with these technological innovations and also should strive to ethically maintain the authenticity and reliability of their published content.

AABP: With the proliferation of Free access content, how is it affecting the economics of publishing in a price sensitive market like India?

Pratap: With increasing amount of free online content and free self-published work available on internet, the problem publishers now face is being unable to generate sufficient revenue through e-books sales. Many people expect the internet to be free and therefore it is difficult for publishers to get consumers to pay for their books and protect their intellectual property.Hence, it also become the responsibility of the publishers to educate them directly or indirectly about the free content available.

Moreover, self publishing is gaining popularity and thus, it is the responsibility of the publishers and researchers to make this content reliable and accurate.

Piracy is also playing an important role and creating challenges for publishers like us. Authors and traditional publishers fear that digital books may and has encouraged piracy of original work, besides restricting the sales of print editions.

AABP: How do you think India fits in the global publishing scene in the next few years?

Pratap: Even as publishers are transitioning to exploring digital spaces, the demand for print books and e books continues to grow in India. E-books open a whole new door of opportunity for publishers. With e-books, publishers reach a new audience. Products online, if optimized for search, are more likely to be found by those looking for that type of content. In India, print and digital formats are likely to coexist and in the future leading to a hybrid publishing model that taps the strengths of both. Moreover, Print on Demand (POD) model is also gaining market share due to minimal or no inventory maintenance and greater efficiency.

AABP: How is your publishing house poised for business in India?

Pratap: Introduction of new subjects in the field of STEAM, Artificial Intelligence, Data Sciences, Machine Learning and many others and publishing e-books and other digital content for the masses is the key to survival. Technologically advanced yet economical content is to be produced for all.

Another important area to be touched upon is Value Education which is the need of the hour for our students. Our range of Self-development books are being provided complimentary to students for enhancing the role of Value Education in their lives.

AABP: Anything else you would like to add.

Pratap: I would like to say that the best thing to give back to the society is through education. Hence, would like to highlight about our Foundation “Shri Sultan Chand Trust” and “Sultan Chand Dropadi Devi Education Foundation” that is working towards providing scholarship to the needy and meritorious students. Apart from the scholarship, we provide Free books to the colleges for their library under the “Book Bank Fund.” Through this Foundation, we came across lots of students and their villages where there are no public libraries. For publishing industry to completely transform itself to digital, it may still take a couple of years. But for us to reach these villages and children will not be very difficult. The ethics of our Founder, Sh. Sultan Chand ji, has taken us this far in the journeyand these small efforts will at least ensure “Books for all.”

Revisiting the trail of Buddha

On the Trail of Buddha—A Journey to the East is a unique sojourn in search of the spiritual, philosophical, and cultural linkages that bind India to the East Asian civilisations. From the wandering monks of Asia to the temples and monasteries they visited; from the statues and frescoes in grottoes to those in the museums; from the diverse ethnicities of the people to their common gods and goddesses—the book explores the ‘ancient India’, beautifully preserved in the traditions, art, and architecture of China, as also in Mongolia, Korea and Japan. The book is published by Niyogi Books.

The author Deepankar Aron, an alumnus of IIT Delhi, recognised with the Presidential Award for his contribution as an Indian Revenue Service officer, is also a passionate traveller and a consummate photographer and writer.

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