A needed business platform takes shape

The third Jaipur BookMark event at JLF

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JLF is an extremely media friendly event – not only are entertainment and news media personalities celebrated as authors, panelists and moderators at the JLF – the event itself has become a huge generator of audio-visual and print news content. Photo IPP

The Jaipur Literature Festival is a performance celebration of the written word. It speaks to our oral tradition and love of talking and argumentation and recitation. It is a fair – a mela where young and old come to enjoy themselves, learn and listen to poetry. There is music and dancing in the evening. The entire city takes part and pride in the fair with spaces for exhibiting and selling everything – books, pottery, handicrafts, fine art photography, public sculpture, food and drink.

The JLF has always enjoyed the support of newspaper publishers but now the Hindi dailies and television channels seem to have gained prominence as the event itself increasingly seems to grow more self-confident and multilingual. The Zee-JLF branding boldly gives credit to its main sponsor, a media news and entertainment broadcaster as well as a newspaper publisher.

As Sanjoy Roy says heritage buildings, culture, content and entertainment do make for good business and it was only natural that the business of publishing should also have its own space and platform at the JLF. In its third year, the Jaipur BookMark held at the Narain Niwas heritage palace and hotel just ten minutes from the JLF at Diggy Palace, is becoming a viable business and networking platform for publishing professionals.

This year more than ever, the JBM had the energy of publishers scurrying back and forth from the JLF where not only their authors but the publishers themselves were also celebrities being interviewed by the media. This is one of the outcomes of the JLF being an extremely media friendly event – not only are entertainment and news media personalities celebrated as authors, panelists and moderators at the JLF – the event itself has become a huge generator of audio-visual and print content. Remarkably, this is more so for the language media and particularly the Hindi daily newspapers and television channels.

Translations, rights and DailyHunt at JBM 2016

Exercising their power to actually instigate change in Indian publishing, the Jaipur BookMark for the first time, featured a rights catalogue of a select list of works on offer. These are available for translation, for digital distribution, for filming and publication rights across the globe. The catalogue is available online and physical copies will be shared at the JLF organizers’ (Teamwork Arts) literary events across the globe.

The JBM continues to be supported by Norla – a Norwegian government-funded, non-commercial foundation which promotes Norwegian literature abroad, but this year it found another important sponsor, DailyHunt which is an Indian internet based content platform. DailyHunt is apparently the largest distributor of Indian language eBooks (including comics), with 70,000 titles in ten Indian languages, including Bhojpuri. Its market is said to be spread across a thousand Indian cities, with 90% of its readers buying eBooks in Indian languages while the remaining 10% buy ebooks in English. 

The scarcity of digital for native Indian languages and the strong increasing readership using smartphones has motivated DailyHunt to come up with a number of innovations and cost-effective options. Its perception is that readers of Indian language eBooks are widely spread over tier-2 and tier-3 cities, towns and villages where there is a dearth of bookstores. At the same time increasing literacy is making eBooks even more compelling for rural readers. Vishal Anand, chief product offi cer of DailyHunt explained, “With the increase in the penetration of smartphones and our observation of the consumption patterns of new users in smaller cities and more remote areas, there is a signifi cant increase in the latent demand for regional content of short and light reads.” DailyHunt is developing a fl exible platform where readers have the comfort of reading in a language of their choice, all in the palm of their hands on a smartphone. It says that 90% of the literate population prefers to read in their native language or mother tongue and this is why its focus on Indian language services is a good business proposition coming at the right time. 

The third edition of the JBM indicates that it is growing and evolving to a business platform and not just by looking at exports but even more by looking at our own languages and growing readership. In its own way, it is instigating content and translation. The third edition also had the benefi t of the Oxford Book Store’s award for the best book cover design. Thus by attracting the increasing attention of major print and electronic publishers as well as publishing professionals such as translators, editors and literary agents it is gradually becoming a sustainable satellite event of the very powerful main JLF event. 

While the arrival of JBM as a rights, translation and business platform cannot happen fast enough for some, its growth does seem to have a logic and graciousness of its own. Commenting on the third JBM, author and critic Nilanjana Roy said, “Tucked away from the main JLF, the JBM is both a small haven of peace and a wonderful platform for publishers, booksellers and scholars to discuss everything from language diversity to digital publishing trends. The world’s largest free literary festival needed this hub for the people who translate, edit and produce the books we’re celebrating at Diggi Palace.”

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

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India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

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