Dr. Stephen Gill Comments on issue of Indian Book Industry.
27 Apr 2007
This is in reference to the letter of Dr. Abdulla Al-Madani, lecturer on Asian affairs, published in South Asian News-Feature Service on April 18, 2007. Dr. Al-Madani regrets that India's huge book industry, third in publishing English books after the USA and UK., has not been able to get into the book market of the Gulf countries.
I would like to say that titles published in India are not in the Gulf Book market because to produce a large number of titles and to produce quality titles are two different things. Indian publishing industry has still to learn the benefits of editing and the subtle ways of promotion.
Soon after the partition in 1947, book industry in India boomed. Half illiterate printers and booksellers took the most advantage. University teachers and others who never appeared in the media as writers or poets and had money became published authors overnights to boost their ego. For lack of knowledgeable editors, the quality of writing suffered. Indian book industry does not have to compete foreign publishers because of its large domestic market. Moreover, there is no government interest in promoting Indian titles abroad.
Indian book publishing is still largely in the hands of printers and booksellers who have not studied beyond their high schools. They still do not know the value of giving complimentary copies to certain readers, including book reviewers and related university professors. Because there is a shortage of qualified book publishers, there is also a shortage of qualified book editors. The concept of having house editors is foreign to book publishers in India.
Industry is still based on false promises. If a printer or a publisher in India says that the book will be released in three months that means it would easily take one year-- in some cases even more---in spite of a number of long distance telephone complaints. Even written agreements do not mean anything to Indian publishers. The concept of royalties is Western to them, though their agreements do include royalties. They are not proud of distribution of royalties to their authors. Quality is another story, though a handful of presses around Delhi have started giving their attentions to quality from the points of production and material and also to their written assurances.
This weakness is partly because there is a shortage of educated people in this industry and lack of an active government interest. University post-graduates have started entering this field, but this trend is still very slow. Buyers in the Gulf countries and elsewhere are consumers and as consumers they have to be alert. In this case, consumers are not to be blamed.
I agree that there is development in book industry. I see this development everywhere in India, including in terrorism, corruption, greed for money, population and also in anti-corruption activities. This development is making the rich richer and poor poorer.