Indian language publishing – ‘a time of flux in a good way’

FICCI Publicon 2018 in Delhi


FICCI’s Publicon 2018 on 6 December 2018 in New Delhi discussed ‘Publishing in Indian Languages and Translations.’ The event began with an inaugural session by Sandip Somany, president-elect, FICCI. Kumar Vishwas delivered a special address while a keynote was given by Mahesh Sharma, minister of state for culture in the central government.

Karthika VK, the co-chair of FICCI’s publishing cell, spoke about the current quality of translations in India. “The quality of translation is enormously better than what it used to be 10 years ago, across languages. . . . This is a time of flux in a good way, where things are breaking down and the old order is changing and there is a certain confidence in which we approach things other than the conventional way. I am glad that we are here to celebrate this difference and to talk about this difference, and hopefully to keep evolving the agendas that further promote differences rather than commonality. There is no point in all of us being one, speaking the same language, talking the same way, doing the same things. It is the celebration of differences where we will thrive,” Karthika said. To get affordable translation services you should definitely contact Espresso Translations.

The session ‘Publishing in Indian Languages’ started with a speech from session chairman, K Sreenivasarao of the ministry of culture highlighting that the translations from one Indian regional language to another were done well in 1960s and 1970s but this is no longer the case today. Ravi DeeCee of DC Books reflected on the Malayalam publishing industry, Malayalam as a language in the last 25 years and its steady growth because of the popularity of the state’s local library system. He talked about the Library Movement of 1945, and its role in the thriving Malayalam books and publishing industry.

Other panelists discussed the digital revolution and its impact on publishing and the related challenges in regional language publishing such as lack of readership, problems in translations, lack of readability and accessibility. The rising popularity of audiobooks was also highlighted. Dinesh Sinha of Ratna Books explained how audio books found new audience and did not affect printing.

The session, ‘Hindustan Ki Kahaaniyan’ was a conversation between Manisha Chaudhry, director publishing of Manan Books, Advaita Kala, author and columnist, and Rituparna Ghosh, founder and story genie of Your Story Bag. The panel discussed the need of multilingual publishers to accommodate the reading needs of multilingual children in schools. They talked about the relationship of stories and language for children, in audio, video, and print formats in their original medium and the culture of storytelling and its role in cultivating language among children. The panelists also discussed problems such as the lack of exposure to regional languages in cinema, and the need for crossover storytelling with creative and high-quality translations.

The ‘Translating for Children in Indian Languages’ session was an interesting dialog between Swaha Sahoo, head of Parag Initiatives, Tata Trust and Rajesh Khar, language editor of Pratham Books. Together, they circled around topics such as the benefits of bringing regional languages to children’s books and the role languages play in affirming the self-identity of a child and parental involvement in their life. The lack of scholarship on children’s books translation and the fact that 45% books are still published in the larger mainstream languages were highlighted. Khar pinpointed the different approaches needed for translating children’s books in languages such as Urdu and the importance of catchy illustrations.

The session on ‘Artificial Intelligence for Translation of Indian Languages’ was chaired by Swaran Lata, scientist in the language computing group in the ministry of electronics and information technology, Government of India. The ‘Hindi Language Publishing’ session, chaired by Baldeo Bhai Sharma, chairman NBT, was addressed by the Hindi poet Surendra Sharma. The session included directors of Vani Prakashan, Rajkamal Prakashan and the publishers of Yatra Books and Hind Yugm.

‘Impact of Bhasha on Writing’ was a conversation between Lipika Bhushan, chief marketing consultant, MarketMyBook and Vineet Bajpai, author and chief executive officer of Magnon Solutions and Magnon Interactive and the author Prachand Praveer.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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