• Table of contents

    • [+]Preliminaries (3)
    • [+]Introduction (4)
    • [+]Latin America (13)
    • [+]Sub-Saharan Africa (9)
    • [+]Arab World (11)
    • [+]Russia (11)
    • [—]India (11)
    • [+]China (9)
    • [+]Conclusions (6)
    • [+]Appendix (1)


Indian publishers and experimentation with digital tools

It must be recognized that for Indian publishers, experimentation with new technologies is not an exotic option but rather an extremely valuable opportunity. On its portal, a long-established publishing house like Pustak Mahal proclaims itself to be “India’s largest publisher of mass appeal books” and at the same time “the first Indian publisher to be truly digital, in all ways”. Its webpage happens to include the Google Books search engine for all its titles, which are sold in paper format in stores like Infibeam or A1books or as e-books in Amazon’s Kindle Store.[1]

In addition, Tulika – a prestigious publisher of children’s books based in Chennai – has recently built applications for 3 of its titles, in conjunction with Fliplog, an apps platform belonging to the local company Apptility. The interactive book Ekki Dokki is therefore now available (in bilingual English/Hindi version) for the iPad[2] and can soon be obtained in other formats. In this context, the comments made by Tulika’s managing editor, Radhika Menon, in 2003 seem highly prophetic:

A very real problem with books is where do you store them. There are schools without walls [in India], so how do you access books then? Maybe if you have a computer somewhere and children can go there to read, maybe this will help. In fact there are very backward areas in India that have gone completely online and it’s really made remarkable progress in terms of literacy. So I wouldn’t dismiss electronic books. In fact I am looking at it the other way, not so much for the upper class or elite market but for a much wider reach at the grassroots. I think technology can play a major role there.[3]

Similarly, numerous companies that publish audio-books on CD, DVD and even cassette have gradually moved towards using online downloads as a means of distribution. One is Karadi Tales, which sells not only titles on MP3 [4] but also content on Flash that it calls “videobooks”.[5]

More and more publishers are also turning to POD. These include CinnamonTeal, a company founded in 2007, which from its headquarters in the city of Goa has set up a self-publishing system based on this new technology. Its co-founder, Leonard Fernandes, named Indian publisher of the year 2010 by the British Council,[6] considers print on demand a definite plus:

I believe on-demand printing has a lot of potential in India, after one considers the breadth of diversity one can find in this country. People have different languages, different dialects, customs, traditions and festivals – a lot of experiences to share. These experiences may appeal to only a small section of society making it unviable for mainstream publishers but a very good case for on-demand publishing.[7]

If it proves interesting to analyze cases of publishers who avail themselves of providers and technologies that are, so to speak, “already there”, it is even more eye-opening to discover that in India certain publishers of printed books implement their own IT development. An inescapable example is New Horizon Media (NHM), a publishing house founded in Chennai in 2004, which in just a few years has managed to put together a backlist of 1,100 titles in 3 different languages: English, Tamil and Malayalam. On a subdomain of its webpage, NHM hosts various freely downloadable tools that really make the task of writing on a screen much easier for those who use regional languages.[8]

  1. Nevertheless, it is worthy to note that the printed version of a book like Three Shades of Green costs half the price of its electronic counterpart.
  2. Cf. “Ekki Dokki – English/Hindi Bilingual Book”, iTunes Preview.
  3. Cf. Rosario, Brigitte: “Online Publishing? No Thanks, Says Writers, Publishers”, eHome Makers, 4th December, 2003.
  4. Cf. “Charkha Audiobooks MP3”, Karadi Tales.
  5. Cf. For example: “From Karadi Tales Heritage”, Karadi Tales.
  6. Cf. “YCE – Publishing Award“, British Council.
  7. Cf. Kumar, Jaya: “Cinnamonteal-On Demand printing”, My Bangalore, 9th February, 2009.
  8. For a clear analysis of the difficulties related to using characters in these languages, cf. John, Gautam: “Thoughts on Unicode in India”, Gautam John’s Blog, 21st February, 2011.

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