Jaipur BookMark puts spotlight on future of publishing

Continued focus on translations and rights

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Jaipur BookMark
(L-R) Amrita Tripathi, Richard Osman, William Dalrymple, and Himali Sodhi at the Jaipur BookMark 2024. Photo JLF

New technological advancements impacting publishing such as artificial intelligence (AI), podcasts, data analysis, and OTT were the focal points of discussion at the 11th edition of the Jaipur BookMark, held alongside the Jaipur Literature Festival from 1 – 5 February 2024 in Jaipur.

According to director, JBM Manisha Chaudhry, this year’s Jaipur BookMark (JBM) looked at the future of the publishing industry and all important developments likely to impact publishing in the future. Sessions were also held alongside to mark the anniversaries of major publishing houses along with a Roundtable with 18 publishers from across the globe.

Chaudhry referred to a session on AI and the future of publishing that had Meru Gokhale, founder of Editrix.ai and former publisher at the Penguin Press Group; Charles Collier, a film, television and literary agent, producer, lawyer, and talent manager; and Safir Anand, intellectual property lawyer and brand strategist in conversation with Marcus du Sautoy, , Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. The session talked about the future of the publishing industry with AI entering the domains of editing, translation and audiobooks, how it will impact legal contracts in publishing, and who would be the owner of the intellectual property rights of books published with AI’s help. All these concerns notwithstanding, there was some optimism about the potential of this technology.

Another session on podcasts and books included speakers Amrita Tripathi, founder-editor of The Health Collective, a resource on mental health and storytelling, Richard Osman, London-based author of The Thursday Murder Club, The Man Who Died Twice, and The Bullet That Missed; and William Dalrymple, historian, author and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival and moderated by Hemali Sodhi, founder of A Suitable Agency. The session explored the deep connections between podcasts and books, which is based on the coming together of voice and text. It explored the synergy between book podcasts and books and the publishing industry – how a high-quality podcast can connect listeners with an intimacy about the book, Chaudhry said. The session examined how publishing podcasts encourages listeners to read more books and help increase book sales.

A session on data analysis had panelists Vikrant Mathur of The Nielsen Report and Rick Simonson from Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company in conversation with Hemali Sodhi. The session delved into the significance of data in the publishing industry in India, which is needed for a developing industry. The session focused on the Nielsen Report, which provides insights into the size of the Indian publishing market, along with recent trends and factors that are set to drive book publishing market growth in the upcoming years. The panelists advocated the collection of more data across the book publishing industry in India to project better results through data analysis.

Chaudhry talked about another ‘crackling’ session on the symbiotic relationship between OTT and publishing. Sahira Nair, content creator for Amazon Prime; Anish Chandy, founder – Labyrinth Literary Agency; Radhika Gopal, head – writers and directors, Tulsea; and Anand Neelakantan, author of the Bahubali trilogy, Asura: Tale of the Vanquished, Valmiki’s Women, Vanara, Nala Damayanti, The Tale of the Flying Mountains, The Very, Extremely, and Most Naughty Asura Tales For Kids took part. The session was moderated by Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO – HarperCollins India. The panel took an outside-in view of book publishing from the eyes of leaders in the OTT space from speakers Neelkanthan, Gopal, Chandy and Nair, who are into writing and direction, OTT rights for book adaptations and content creation for OTT, respectively. The session talked about OTT’s hunger for content, the sales of rights of books and contracts for content adaptations along with the steps that publishers can take to leverage old and new content for the OTT industry, she said.

Literary milestones for book publishers

Chaudhry said the other reverberating theme at the Jaipur BookMark 2024 was the anniversaries of significant Indian independent publishers. Malayalam publishing house DC Books celebrated its 50th birthday in 2023. “Malayalam is a flourishing language as far as publishing is concerned, with several reprints of its existing titles, and success of Kerala’s literature festivals. It is a wonder how the Malayalam publishing scene has evolved,” Chaudhry shared, adding the English language publishers were surprised to hear about such high print runs for Malayalam publishing that Ravi DeeCee of DC Books talked about in the session.

Jaipur BookMark
(L-R) Karthika VK and Ravi Deecee at the Jaipur BookMark 2024. Photo JLF

Another publishing house to celebrate a literary milestone was Seagull Books, Chaudhry said, with the Kolkata-based publishing house completing its 40 years in 2023. Seagull Books’ Naveen Kishore shared insights about the publishing house creating books across borders and boundaries in a conversation with Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamwork Arts.

The Jaipur BookMark 2024 celebrated 40 years of feminist publishing in India, Chaudhry said, with feminist publishers Ritu Menon and Urvashi Butalia sharing insights on how Indian feminist publishing was associated with the women’s movement in the country, making it a huge hit with the target population. When Butalia and Menon initially started with Kali for Women, there was debate over who was going to read these books in a country like India, Chaudhry recounted. But gradually, women’s studies emerged as a sought-after discipline in activism as well as publishing. This marked the way for the establishment of a new kind of list, including feminist accounts, women writers and experiences of women at the grassroots level, which mainstream publishing houses would not think as viable products, she said. The session was interesting for women who have just entered the publishing industry in various roles.

Translations and multilingual publishing

The Jaipur BookMark 2024 concentrated on multilingualism and evolving lists of Indian language publishers, including Telugu, Punjabi, Hindi and Tamil, Chaudhry shared. A panel on the landscape of translations included Ranjit Hoskote, poet, cultural theorist and curator; Mini Krishnan, who has previously worked with Oxford University Press; and Bengali translator Arunava Sinha. It was moderated by Karthika VK, publisher at Westland Books. The session delved into how translated books have succeeded in creating a market, and received recognition at literary awards and festivals the world over. The impact of translated books that cross-linguistic and cultural borders has given impetus to several translation initiatives worldwide, Chaudhry said.

Jaipur BookMark
(L-R) Sukrita Paul Kumar, Suchitra Ramachandran, Daisy Rockwell, Mini Krishnan, and R Sivyapriya at the Jaipur BookMark 2024. Photo JLF

Another session on translations, Indian Literature: Across Languages, Across Scripts had Suchitra Ramachandran, writer and Tamil translator; Daisy Rockwell, Booker prize-winning translator of Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand; Sukrita Paul Kumar, poet and translator; and Mini Krishnan discussed and debated on the intricacies of translation. India has numerous languages and scripts and it takes great effort to translate the literary works from Indian languages into English. The session talked about the different aspects of translation, Chaudhry said, adding that each person’s experience with translations is unique and they view it from their lens.

The Jaipur BookMark this year focused on multilingual publishing and Indian language publishers. A session on Multilingual Publishing in the Global South delved into the creative prowess of publishers from various countries, which included Anitah Aujayeb, Mauritian writer, poet, and historian; Ibrahim Waheed, Maldivian writer, poet, and academician; and Bhuchung D Sonam, Tibetan poet, translator and publisher discussing on how to keep alive the soundscape of different languages.

Jaipur BookMark
(L-R) Parminder Singh Shonkey, Gita Ramaswamy, Kannan Sundaram, Esha Chatterjee, Shailesh Bharatwasi, Ravi Deecee, and Mita Kapur at the Jaipur BookMark 2024. Photo JLF

In another session, Parminder Singh Shonkey, from Punjabi publishing house Rethink Foundation; Gita Ramaswamy, co-founder of the Telugu publishing house Hyderabad Book Trust; Ravi DeeCee; Kannan Sundaram from Kalachuvadu Publications; Shailesh Bharatwasi from Hindi publishing house Hind Yugm Publishers; and Esha Chatterjee, CEO of Bee Books and managing director of Patra Bharti, the third-largest Bengali publishing house discussed the landscape of Indian language publishing with Mita Kapur, founder and CEO of Jaipur-based literary agency Siyahi. The Telugu, Malayalam, Bangla, Tamil, Hindi and Punjabi publishers talked about the literary works that were gaining greater traction in their languages and discussed their lists, Chaudhry shared.

Educational Publishing on the path to growth

Chaudhry talked about the growth of educational publishing in India. The session on educational publishing had Atiya Zaidi, publisher at Ratna Sagar, discuss the importance of supplementary reading and the effect of the National Education Policy on academic publishing with Ananth Padmanabhan. The educational publishing sector, the session discussed, is the most profitable segment of publishing in India with a large population of school-going kids. The session talked about Collins – the educational publishing imprint of HarperCollins, and explored the common areas of interest between educational and trade publishing in India.

Another session had Neeraj Jain, managing director at Scholastic India; Nancy Silberkleit, one of the founders of Archie Comics Publications; and Prashant Pathak, director – publishing operations at Prakash Books and publisher at Wonder House Books discuss the relevance of picture books, which is one of the most important categories in Children’s publishing as it is the starting point which develops an interest in books in young readers. The session was moderated by Kanishka Gupta, founder of literary agency Writer’s Side. Silberkleit talked about the impact of graphic and illustrated comic books on children and how Archie Comics has created a place for itself in India over the years. Jain stressed on how picture books had been a gap area in Indian publishing and how Scholastic has helped bridge that gap, Chaudhry shared.

Another ‘impactful’ session Chaudhry talked about was the one between bestselling Tamil author Perumal Murugan, who has won several awards, including the JCB Prize for Literature 2023, and Swami Anandatheerthan Award, and his publisher Kannan Sundaram from Kalachuvadu Publications. The two have had a long-lasting relationship in publishing of over 20 years. The session was moderated by Kannada author Vivek Shanbhag, who brought out the little details and personal touches of this literary relationship and how it benefited both the publisher and the author, Chaudhry shared, adding Sundaram has made a mark in successfully presenting and marketing Murugan’s work in the best possible manner.

In another session, Beauty and the Book, Sunandini Banerjee, senior editor and graphic designer at Seagull Books; Ahlawat Gunjan, creative head at Penguin Random House India; Philip Watson, from James & Hudson; Svein Størksen, Norwegian designer, illustrator, owner and editor of Magikon publishing; and Priya Kapoor, publisher at Roli Books talked about the allure of illustrated and design books. The session talked about how the book as an object of enduring beauty takes shape under the eye of designers and the creative process that makes the cover designs of books a sight to behold.

The Jaipur BookMark concluded with the Festival Directors’ Roundtable on the last day in which lists and rights of 18 national and international publishers were discussed. “The Jaipur BookMark still focuses a lot on its core strength which is rights. This time we had a catalogue for rights, which had 50 books from 12 publishers representing five languages. Whether it was the generalist, or the specialist, JBM 2024 had something of interest for everyone,” Chaudhry concluded.

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