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Seasoned publishers decode business of books

Jaipur, Jan 24 : Beyond the realm of art -- where all that matters is the beauty of text and the originality of idea -- the world of literature is ultimately a business, and a Jaipur BookMark session here on Thursday saw some of the world's leading publishers discuss the present and future of the business of books.

Session moderator Manasi Subramaniam, Senior Commissioning Editor at Penguin Random House India, opened the discussion by asking the panel of seasoned publishing experts how they view the business to which they have devoted themselves.

Writer and publisher Urvashi Butalia, who opened India's first feminist publishing house Zubaan, quipped that publishing was "the love of my life".

Naveen Kishore, Founder of Seagull Books, regards publishing as his "life's work, so I treat it with passion and commitment".

Apart from, or perhaps due to, old cliches of the struggling artist, the romanticization of books, and the passion-led nature of the publishing industry, innovative approaches are often required to make it work as a business.

Butalia said: "If you are excited to be in the presence of new thinking, new writing every day, it's hard not to love it."


Publisher and founder of the Jan Michalski Foundation, Vera Michalski-Hoffmann opined: "The book trade is in a more optimistic place than where it was a couple of years ago".

The panel agreed that reports of the demise of the book have been "greatly exaggerated".

Subramaniam highlighted that publishing is "not competing with other publishers" but rather it is "competing with coffee shops, Netflix, YouTube and social media".

The panel acknowledged that navigating this brave new world is "a tricky affair".

Michalski-Hoffmann stated: "When people complain about how expensive books are, it's still one of the cheapest ways to acquire knowledge."

Kishore's approach involves "opening up many fronts to confuse the enemy. The enemy is the marketplace, which you cannot claim to know or understand".

Butalia confirmed the suspicions of most writers by declaring that "many of my authors drive me up the wall", before advocating that the "hostility between authors and publishers" needs to end as they are both in the same business.

Butalia also expressed her annoyance with "deeply patriarchal men" who think that women with years, if not decades, of experience in the publishing business might not be aware of subjects that they deem too technical.

Kishore felt that there was "not enough community across publishing, despite the fact that it is not a cut-throat industry compared to other businesses".

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Seasoned publishers decode business of books

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