Earlier this month the great and the good of the Indian publishing industry descended on Goa for Publishing Next, a conference designed to get people talking about the future. It was great to be there as part of a British Council YCE initiative along with Oliver Brooks of Complete Novel/Valobox and Michael Bhaskar of Profile. James Bridle and Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones completed the UK contingent for the event, masterminded by Leonard Fernandes and the team at Cinnamon Teal.
This was an event loaded with useful nuggets of knowledge about the publishing community in India and the book industry in general. Here are 5 takeaways.
1) There’s no need to fix that which ain’t broke
Working in digital publishing I’m well aware of how tempting it is to prematurely consign print books to the curiosity shop on the corner, but in India, print is far from a dying industry. Book sales are growing, and it’s a medium that is still the best, most cost effective way to communicate ideas to a mass audience.
Yes, there’s a $35 ereader doing the rounds, and ebooks do have some potential in the Indian market, but print is here to stay.
2) flipkart.com – cash payment on delivery can work for books as well as pizzas
The burgeoning success of ebooks in the UK and USA is due not only to devices like the Kindle, but also the ecommerce systems that allow the files to be sold and downloaded. Amazon, Apple and Paypal all hold millions of credit card details, ready to be charged at the click of a mouse. For a multitude of reasons, India has no similar system available for popular use. flipkart.com is one of India’s newest success stories, and offers a pay on delivery model. Despite much initial scepticism that such a model could work in India, the company is going from strength to strength, and in a country without Amazon, is taking a lead in book distribution. There’s more here from James Bridle.
3) We are all criminals
A talk that stuck with me was from Pranesh Prakash, Programme Manager at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, who opened by saying that if we were to uphold copyright law to the letter, then “we are all criminals”. Even by using the internet, we’re technically breaking the law on a daily basis, and we’re all vulnerable to companies choosing to invoke this when it suits them.
He’s got a point, we do need to review things for the digital age, while bearing in mind that the publishing industry is built on the principle of copyright – take this away and we’ve all got a problem
4) Don’t make the same mistakes as the music industry
Another memorable talk was an impromptu one from Anish Trivedi, who coming from the online music radio business, had much to say about piracy. There a great account of what he had to say by Nikhil Pahwa here.
5) Time to get social
The Indian publishing industry is a highly complex, multi-faceted affair, but is facing many of the same issues encountered in the West. We should talk to each other more. Titash Neogi has something to say on this. Count BookMachine in.