Sunday 10 November 2013

Cutie Pie is getting married

Via my colleague Ramnath, this glorious press release.

Wedding PRESS Release

India based Entrepreneur [name removed] & Malaysia based HR Expert [name removed] to enter in wedlock next year
Monogram Themed Royal Tamil Hindu Wedding Ceremony of 2014

Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 8th Nov2013:
Wedding bell will ring soon!!! A wedding is the union of not only the bride and groom but also their families and friends. [name removed], India based Entrepreneur and [name removed], Malaysia based HR Expert will tie the knot on March 2014. Wooph… It would be Monogram Themed Royal Tamil Hindu Wedding Ceremony of 2014. Depending on who you ask, you may get two different stories about how they met first. God was at work behind the scenes to bring us together, quips Vijay.
Almost one year ago, fortune and a few mouse clicks brought [name removed] and [name removed] together. They went from complete strangers to inseparable companions in love. This is how it all began. 
[name removed] is thoughtful, funny, God- loving, approachable, easy going and humble. He's truly a gem of person. He believes in a strong balance between personal and professional life. Determined for long-term goals. Foodie, and never misses an opportunity to dig into quality food. He loves to explore the world. He is a versatile human being with result oriented approach. Passionate and avid tamilian by heart and Soul. He value personal qualities much more than material things. He loves to have a good & meaningful conversation about almost anything, serious or fun. Born and raised in India. Believes in living life king size.

The dashing  [name removed], stated, “I will get married early next year. It will be a close knit Tamil traditional wedding.  We are enthusiastically counting down the days until we are able to officially join our lives. We are getting so thrilled for our wedding and overjoyed about sharing such a happy occasion with all of you. Can't wait to see you on our big day.
[name removed] ambitious with multiple "E"s - Exuberant, Excellent, Euphoric, Endearing, Enduring, Enthusiastic, Energetic, Easy-onthe- Eye... ooohhh. ! Affectionately called " Cutie Pie' by her beloved. She embodies traditional values yet embracing all that is new, contemporary and essential. Born and raised in Malaysia, Her cheering personality won beloved [name removed]'s heart. Charming, cute, kind - hearted, ingenious, honest and committed to formulate the best out of life. She has an amazing sense of humor. Keen fascination towards cooking and currently experimenting with various recipes at home.
The beautiful [name removed] says “We are aiming to make our wedding as fun and enjoyable as possible for you. Our wedding is more than a marriage between the two of us and also commencement of a friendship between our families and friends".
 She also added that “Tamil wedding ceremony is lavish and vibrant. The rich and bright coloured kanjeevaram silk sarees add to the ambience, making it very animated”.
Tamilians have their own rituals followed before, during and after the wedding, which look very vibrant. All the customs are followed with religious observance. All the people, right from the prospective bride and the groom to the family members, friends and relatives have the festive mood, which is set by the ceremony. The ambience is filled with nothing but happiness and celebration. The festive spirits are boosted up among the people, witnessing the ceremony, by the colorful and elaborate rituals that are conducted before, during and after the marriage. Tamil wedding includes many traditions that differ from community to community.
 The wedding will be in India but the couple will have a reception for friends and family in Malaysia and India. 

Congratulations to [name removed] and [name removed], they're really made for each other! We would like to wish the happy couple the best with their upcoming nuptials.

Monday 16 September 2013

Do not go gently into social media

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Your tweets should burn and rave at close of day;
Outrage, outrage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no retweets they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Google's men, their last Wave by, crying all night
Their frail +1s might have danced in FB's bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who fought and Ryzed the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they Mixered it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rave men, near Friendster, see with blinding sight
Instagram filters like meteors and Pal-Pay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, Bill Gates, there on the sad height,
Cursing Ballmer with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Outrage, outrage against the dying of the light.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - High Five - Day 2

Write a poem about the pain of having a perfect life when the dream is to be a tormented poet. (Ttheme donated by Anjana.)

Monday 19 August 2013

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - High Five - Day 1

So here's your cue for Day 1

Write a poem that uses 'moon,' 'June' and 'spoon; as end-words. Preferably in an aabb rhyme scheme. Bonus points for no meter and uneven line lengths

Saturday 3 August 2013

Great-Great-Great-Grandson of Godawful Poetry Fortnight: High Five!

Godawful Poetry Fortnight was founded in 2008. So high fives all around for the fifth anniversary. (1, 2, 3, 4, all)

Quick recap:

Godawful Poetry Fortnight starts on the 19th August and runs up to the 31st August. This blog is its literal and spiritual home. All previous posts on the subject here are tagged thus.

Our Patron Saint is William Wordsworth.
And he gets this signal honour for saying that poetry "is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Way too many aspiring poets have rallied behind that banner, too few going so far as recollecting those emotions in tranquillity, let alone reading the rest of the preface to Lyrical Ballads (which can be found on Bartleby, for those interested).
Godawful Poetry Fortnight isn't a competition. But we do invite all poets—beginners, much published, academics—to have a bit of fun and deliberately write bad poetry. As opposed to, you know, writing it accidentally.

The True Believers Challenge: post thirteen Godawful Poems, one on each day of the Fortnight.)

For those who need them, I'll post prompts here, one for every day.


Use a Godawful Poetry Fortnight tag or label on your post

Use a #GodawfulPoetryFortnight hashtag on Twitter and/or Facebook and/or Google+

You can link to this post or this blog if you want to, and/or you can alert me on Twitter) and/or Facebook and/or Google+.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Swab your cheek - help save Nalini

Several friends are organising a swab drive on Saturday, from 11am to 2pm, at the Pinstorm office in Santa Cruz, Bombay. The address: Swati Building, North Avenue, Santa Cruz (W) Bombay 400 054 Phone: +91 22 6739 3888. 

North Avenue is the road that runs between SV (Swami Vivekananda) Road and  Linking Road. The restaurants Dynasty and Yoko's are almost bang opposite the SV Road end, and there's a Kotak Bank branch at the Linking road corner, with Tressorie just ahead. Swati is very close to the Linking road end, on your right as you go towards SV Road.

This message from Dilip D'Souza will explain the background, and what you can expect.
My good friend Nalini Ambady, prof at Stanford U, needs your help. See the web site and Facebook page of same name -- it will tell you about her, her situation and what 's been done so far. Short version: she needs a bone marrow transfer (BMT) and she has failed in efforts to find a donor in the US. So we're now trying here in India. Both to find a match and to get people to sign up with Indian bone marrow databases so that the chance of a match increases.
There is an age restriction: they want donors to be between 18 and 50.
There are two databases of donors I know about in India: DATRI ( and MDRI ( Somewhere on the DATRI site you can sign up to have a kit sent to you, you use the enclosed swabs to do a cheek swab and send the result back to them with a Rs 2500 fee. I happen to have three of those kits with me, so if you want to do that let me know (and the costs will be taken care of).
Alternatively, you can sign up for free with the MDRI database (unless you want to donate only to a specified person, like Nalini, in which case they charge you Rs 10,000). You can do so by walking into one of several hospitals in Bom, e.g. Raheja at Mahim, Holy Family in Bandra, Nanavati in Vile Parle, etc (see this page Apparently the procedure of forms and taking a blood sample will take 15 minutes or so. MDRI is run by the Tata Memorial Hospital, so your data will be sent to them by whichever hospital you sign up at.
I believe Kokilaben in Andheri also signs you up this way, it's just that I'm not sure which database you are entered in. Worth calling to ask, especially if you're nearby and that is convenient for you.
I hope you'll consider signing up. Time is of the essence for Nalini. The BMT is really the only option she has left and we have to find her a matching donor in the next 2-3 months, possibly a little more.
If you sign up, thanks! Please give a thought to whether you know others in the 18-50 age range who can sign up too.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Environment-friendly spam

My pal and colleague Charles Assisi got this email a little while ago:
From: Yogi Tripathi
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2013 23:41:13 +0530


I manage a unit by the name of [removed], from Lucknow, India which is into trading, manufacturing and consultancy activities offering renewable energy solutions since 2008...

I have been trying to raise funds for the R&D projects in solar energy ( proposal attached) since a long time however, could not manage it...another file with our product list, video links and newspaper article have also been attached...The response so far has been negative with comments like - "no one will give you a penny", "nothing works in India", "go to America ", "last 60 years nothing much happened here except population explosion".."we are a very poor third world country", "we are service class not business class"...blah..blah...only a handful have actually offered real money...why this kind of an attitude ? does not help anyone....earlier systems in India were designed for slavery by the British by keeping people poor, weak and afraid so that they keep looking at the, how will things move this way? is is the best way to attack India's biggest problem of poverty...

So the team building effort continues....can you help - by a small personal contribution ?....can you help by becoming a customer ? can buy solar cookers, solar water heaters or get your home & offices on solar power.....can you help by circulating this email ahead?..connecting us to high net worth individuals / angel investors probably outside India....connecting us to media who could highlight the case....venture capital and banks fund only well established companies and will rarely fund R&D work...

Please reply, even if negative with explanation, else will assume that the email did not reach and follow up with phone calls and letters...

www [Removed]
Note, please, the air of persecution and entitlement, and the threat at the end.

Then, on 10th April, this:
On Wednesday, April 10, 2013, [Removed]wrote:
Since we have not received any reply from your end this email seeks toserve as a kind reminder....
Charles replied:
This is the kind of shit that constitutes spam. Reporting your email id as spam. And don't you dare assume you can keep trying to email or call me if I don't respond. Whether I choose to or not is my perogative. You can't assume anything on my behalf.
And get this:
From: "Yogi Tripathi"
Date: Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 1:58 PM
Subject: Re: Second email - reply awaited : Individual contributions needed for R&D projects in solar energy - proposal attached
To: "Charles Assisi"

why will I waste any more time on u....when u r yourself poor, mediocre, selfish, not healthy or happy with life and frustrated...even if u wanted to, u wont have been able to....marked ur mail as spam too....we will not be talking again....

Friday 1 February 2013

Where the mind is w̶i̶t̶h̶o̶u̶t̶ fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
(As long as the mind does not make fun of me)
Where knowledge is free
(And state-approved)
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
(Except if it benefits electoral equations)
By narrow domestic walls
(I.e.: Mohun Bagan and East Bengal)
Where words come out from the depth of truth
(All hail Didi!)
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
(Or the railway ministry)
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
(Who are these literary festival people anyway?)
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
(Why do they all invite Rushdie and not me?)
Where the mind is led forward by thee
(Or even Derek O'Brien?)
Into ever-widening thought and action
(A lathi to the head really opens the mind)
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
(Poriborton that)


Monday 7 January 2013

Urvashi Butalia

Urvashi Butalia, co-founder of Kali For Women and founder of Zubaan Books, is one of the nicest and most respected figures in publishing (and, in full disclosure, a very good friend).

When we asked her to be our expert on one of The Questions That Need Asking that you will read in our Anniversary Issue, she was, as ever, generous with her time and knowledge. The constraints of print, and the brief for the issue, meant that what you see on the page is a very abbreviated version of the conversation. Here, for your delectation, is the full conversation. One of these days, I must persuade her to write up a complete history of Indian publishing.

Peter Griffin: The 'big question' we want to address with this chat is: How much time does the book made of paper have left?

Urvashi Butalia: So, I know this is one you want to answer through the piece you'll write, but just because this is a question that interests me, I'm putting down some thoughts.

I don't think, it matters in the long run how long paper has left. The idea is that as long as content remains alive, we're okay. The nature of content is also rapidly changing, but even so, people will always hunger for knowledge, they will always want to get it, and for as long as they can get it from books, that's great. I think in all this anxiety around the paper book we forget that this wasn't always the form of the book; books were earlier made of cloth, vellum, palm leaf. Paper as we know it today (and not the papyrus of the Egyptians or the paper made by the Chinese as early as 150 AD) began to be widely used for books only around the 18th century when suspicion about its more 'temporary' nature and its 'fragility' wore off, and when the Arabs took it around the world, and when printing became properly set. I mean that books were printed on paper earlier, but it was paper that was almost like cloth, with very heavy rag content and so on. Paper made mostly of wood is a later invention, when cotton rags became less easily available because industry was growing, the industrial revolution brought in synthetics, and ragpickers could not find so much waste cloth, which is when wood makes a proper appearance. One of the things that made the paper book so attractive in European countries particularly was the fact that it took a lot of small animal skins to make a book, and it is interesting that the same sort of concern is there now for wood, and water, because paper uses so much wood and so much water, that it is just as well to look for alternatives.

So my take on this is that it is not only the digital revolution that will drive the death or slow demise of the paper book, but also the shortage of water and wood, and growing environmental consciousness. There is a lovely book on the history of paper by Lefebre which gives you some interesting stories. This is just by the by, a long answer to an unasked question!

PG: What is the approximate size of the Indian publishing industry? Where does it rank worldwide? What are the current growth figures like? And how long will that continue?

UB: The one thing that can be said with certainty about the publishing industry in India is that nothing can be said with any certainty. After 1972 when the Indian government commissioned the National Centre for Applied Economic Research to do a survey of book publishing in India, there has been no systematic study, so we have no stats at all that are reliable. You can see this easily if you ask people in publishing the question you have asked above, some will say the publishing industry in India is valued at 5000 crore rupees, and others will say 7000 crore (and last week I heard someone say 1200 crore, so you can see how crazy it all is!). There is quite a big difference in these two figures but these are the ones that are widely bandied about.

Similarly it is said that India is the third-largest English language publisher in the world, after the US and UK, and this figure may well be true as other English-publishing countries, such as Australia and Canada, have much smaller industries simply because they have been so dominated by UK and US.

It also used to be said, although I have heard this figure less in recent times, that India stands 16th or 17th in the international world of publishing. This figure is from the time when we did not have so many international publishers in India, so now that we have many of the big guns, in all the sectors—STM (science, technical & medical), educational, trade (books for the general public) —India may have risen higher up the ladder, but we don't really know.

These figures are arrived at basically by computing the number of titles published in a country annually, and this can be done in various ways: by law all publishers are required to send four copies of each of the titles they publish to the four copyright libraries in India. In practice very few do. If everyone followed this rule, there would be a good way of estimating the size of the industry at least in terms of its output. Then, in other countries where book publishing is well developed, there is usually a publication called Books in Print which is updated every year. We have no such thing. The only 'reliable' method we have of computing the numbers is by adding up the ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) at the ISBN office. The thing that this leaves out though is what often happens in India, which is that many people publish without ISBNs (not publishers, who will by and large get ISBNs, but individuals, NGOs and so on). Still, one can compute a rough figure for this and add it to ISBNs and that can give some idea. But even this has not been done.

There are a few studies done by the British publishers associations, the Norwegians and others, but these are restricted to their members and are basically focused on areas which can provide lucrative markets for them, or on copyright violations and suchlike.

So, just as no one really knows the size of the industry, no one really knows much about growth figures. Everything is based on impressions, assumptions and some speculation, with some facts lying at the bottom. The general wisdom is that in trade publishing the growth is somewhere between 20–30 percent annually. About other sectors not much is known, although some estimates can be made for the educational sector by computing growth in education and institutes. Growth will not stop in the near future. The thing about India is that it is one of the few markets in the world that is not yet saturated and that has a very low per capita book consumption (unlike say the US or the UK or France or Germany). So as education grows, as literacy grows, as urbanisation spreads, as incomes increase, the media spreads, growth in books will also accompany these, although the form of the book may well change. This is of course why all the big guns are flocking here: they see growth, growth, growth! And of course, this is borne out by what we see happening on the ground: an increase in the number of bookshops (even if some chains have shut down shops, we still have more bookshops than we had say when I started out in publishing in the seventies), online selling, book festivals, more authors... all this is indicative of change, so we know change is happening, we just don't know how much.

PG: We saw the merger of Penguin and Random House earlier this year. How will this affect the Indian publishing industry? Does it matter to India?

UB: Yes, in the long run, although at the moment it is difficult to say how much or how. But you have seen how Amazon has created panic in the publishing industry in the US. The same thing will happen here, and is already happening with Flipkart, which is changing its practices towards small independents like us. And the appearance of the large, international conglomerate will also set a new bar on things like advances (most of them remain unearned, but they ruin the ground for people like us), also they will put pressure on bookshops to only carry their stuff and smaller publishers will find it difficult to get space... at the moment one of the interesting things about indian publishing is the mix of old, new, independent, multinational, multilingual. All of this may change with the big guns coming in.

PG: Could you name some landmarks, some break-out moments, in the growth path of the Indian publishing industry?
UB: The first of these was post-independence, when the govt decided the publishing industry would Indianise and they started a phased process of throwing out expats, and also laid down that foreign companies could not be here with more than 49 per cent. This set the path for Indian authors to grow and develop, and for Indian books to come into the market; at this stage, mostly educational books.

The next for me would be in the late 60s when the NCERT was set up to create model textbooks but it ended up becoming a publisher—the government publisher—of textbooks, taking this very lucrative area out of the hands of private publishers.

The third, perhaps around the late 80s, early 90s, when two key things happen: the entry of young professionals in the industry, the setting up of new houses (Kali for women, Tulika, Tara, Ravi Dayal, Penguin and so on) who begin to publish for the general reader as opposed to the student. This ties in with another important development, the devaluation of the rupee against the dollar, which makes imports (India is still a major market for imports of English language books) more expensive and there is some reduction in the units brought in (although not in the money paid out!) which opens up a tiny, tiny space for publishers like us, and that marks, in the English publishing world, the entry of trade books.

Around this time you also start to see the beginnings of change in the language markets. Hindi for example, starts to grow and develop after a slump: in the early days, writers like Gulshan Nanda, published by Hind Pocket Books, would sell around 300,000 to 400,000 copies. We make so much noise about Chetan Bhagat these days but something similar has happened before in the Hindi world and in the Bengali and Malayalam worlds, except that it did not get noticed. And as the language media grow (you can see this in the growth for example of newspapers) so does writing and publishing of books. Today we see a healthy publishing industry in Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam (this has been there for a long time and Malayalam also had one of the early author cooperatives that paid out 25 percent royalties to its authors, it was called the Sahitya Pravartak Cooperative Society). All this begins then.
And then I guess there is the now world with the re-entry of multinationals, with FDI making 100 per cent ownership possible, with the paying out of huge advances...

For me, one of the other things that is quite remarkable and I don't really have a precise date to put on it, is the entry of young people, the spirit of adventure and experimentation and the entry of young women into publishing. So look around you at what people are doing: Kannan (his publishing house is called Kalachuvadu), and New Horizon Media doing Tamil, S. Anand doing books on caste, Ravi Deecee, and Bookport doing Malayalam, Sunil Mehta (Mehta Publishers) and Manovikas and others doing Marathi, Shekhar Malhotra (Full Circle and Hind Pocket Books) and Manisha Chaudhry (Pratham) and Tultul Biswas (Eklavya) doing Hindi, I could go on and on. And then the women: Karthika VK, Diya Kar Hazra, Anita Roy, Preeti Gill, Nilanjana Roy, Renuka Chatterjee, Arpita Das, Kalpana Shukla, Omita Goyal, Sunanda Ghosh, Esha Beteille, Indu Chandrashekhar, Ritu Menon, Renu Kaul, Meru Gokhale, Divya Dube, Neeta Gupta and more and more…

PG: Has the Indian publishing industry reacted well (or with foresight) to change? Or has it been dragged, kicking and screaming, into change? How does it compare with more developed markets?

UB: I think the answer to this has to be: “both.” Some people have reacted well to change, seeing it for what it brings, both the good and the bad. But there are others who have fought for protectionism in the Indian market, tried to stop FDI, some for political reasons (and these are often suspect) and others for practical ones, or commercial ones. So many are scared of losing their markets to the big guns, but I think we have to really think on our feet about how to deal with this, and people are not doing enough of that.

The more difficult change has been the one that has come with the digital revolution. Those publishers who have taken this on board have done very well in coping with this change. But there are others who have been suspicious, who do not know, who don't have the wherewithal to find out, and who are confused. I'm not saying they haven't reacted well, but they have not reacted speedily because actually you really need to know what you are getting into before you put your foot in. We at Zubaan are an example of this: we're not closed to these changes, we feel we have to implement them, but I don't have the money to invest in finding out how to do it, so we have to learn as we go along. so it's a bit mixed.

PG: Is the Indian publishing industry feeling threatened by the emergence of e-books?

UB: Yes, and no, threatened and excited. See, in India, I think the paper book will be around longer than in many other countries. We are still, in terms of numbers, a country of book hunger. And electronic stuff is not so easily available or affordable, so we know that books will not disappear. But there is also the uncertainty of not knowing what exactly will happen.

FI: Even just a few years ago, publishers weren't buying e-book rights. Now, we're seeing houses like Aleph releasing e-books along with the print books for all of their catalogue. Penguin has said that they'll be bringing out ebooks of all releases. Would you be able to give us a picture of what the other houses are doing?

UB: I think pretty much everyone is trying to do two things: turn their backlist and out of print books into e-books, and ensure that every new book is simultaneously released as an e book. This has become possible now with new software and programming, so that you can do PDFs for printing and then move into doing epub files for ebooks. No one wants to be left behind here, some may be slower than others but everyone wants to be there.

PG: From what we see, e-books are being priced the same as print books, even though paper and distribution costs have been eliminated. Why do you think this is happening? Is it fair to the reader?

UB: There are still costs of conversion—turning a traditional book into an e book, for those books that come from the pre-PDF days (and anything older than say six years or eight years will be in this category) —you have to spend on scanning, proofing, turning the book into a PDF and then into an e-book. Then, e-book formats are different for different providers. For example, for Amazon you have to do one format, for the Apple store a different one. All this costs money. And no, distribution costs are not eliminated. See, you can sell e-books on your own website, but if you sell them through Amazon or Flipkart, they charge. At the moment, the charges may be fair, but wait just a bit and they will begin squeezing publishers just like distributors do.

Traditional distributors charge anything between 50 to 60 percent discount (e-books may be a bit less, but not for long). Also, for all publishers, the e-book market is a mystery, so at the moment they want to play safe. No one really knows how to price, and the best thing, therefore, is to go with the price you know. Plus, and this is a major concern, no matter how much DRM (digital rights management) you do, e-books are and can be accessed for free, so there are genuine copyright issues. Many publishers feel they will be giving away stuff, so they want to charge while they can. Most hackers can break even the best DRM.

PG: Do you think the experience of a book will have to change? I.e., Will publishers have to go beyond producing e-versions of books that merely seek to reproduce the print experience and re-imagine their offerings for the new devices?

UB: Oh yes, this is already happening. Books can now be read with sound, with music, you can witness notes, see what other people have to say. This is very important for example for educational books: many educational publishers say that in turning their books into e-books they are not relying on the printed version at all, or actually not being faithful to it, but that they are using the characters from the book and going much beyond the book.

PG: Are there the creators (as opposed to just writers) who can think this way too? And could you name some interesting new voices who are speaking today's language? Writers who can have an impact on India and/or the international markets in the near future (like 2013)?

UB: Yes, there are creators. In fact, I often, when I read a manuscript these days, actually see the thinking that has gone into writing it, with the e-world very much in mind. There's a book called Annual Haircut Day written by someone called Noni which has a character called Sringeri Srinivas who has gone viral, to use today's language. Srinivas now lives much more outside of the book. Pratham Books did something interesting, and they do this with many books, and this addresses your question below as well, which is that they put quite a lot of their books with Creative Commons licenses, believing that knowledge should be both free and paid for, and Sringeri has travelled all over, into blackberries, into apps, into little telephone bites and so on. Look it up and see. And yes, there are other writers, grown-up ones, who are doing this with their books. One of the things that I personally find very exciting about the experience of particularly interactive e-reading is that you can get writers to respond there and then, to participate in expanding and enlarging the book. Let me give you an example, we have a book on the women's movement that badly needs updating. The author is no longer interested, so we feel if we put it up digitally and ask writers to write in with their additions, we could have a really interesting product to offer at the end of it.

PG: What can publishing learn from the hard lessons that the music industry was forced to imbibe thanks to the digital age?

UB: I think we have to realise that it is only a matter of time before the pressure for knowledge to become free and easily available will catch up with us. We have to see what we can do which can keep publishing the profession alive, and what we can do to spread knowledge. I find Pratham's mixed model quite fascinating, and it's something we would like to experiment with: ask our authors if they want their stuff to be freely available and if yes, put it there. Or work out a staggered model, charge for a few years and then make it free. And we have to also learn to deal with providing a smaller product—you know, smaller, shorter books, single essays, single stories—like Flipkart sells a song for Rs 7, we should be able to sell a story for Rs 5 or 10. But that is some way off still.

PG: We're seeing a boom in literature festivals. Everyone seem to want to run one. Is there enough space for all of them? Why is this happening, do you think?

UB: Well, some of it is the copycat effect, but a lot of it comes from a genuine interest in books and more and more writers writing. I am not one of those sceptics who says “bah!” to lit fests, I think they are great for authors, they bring readers and authors together and nothing could be better for the craft of writing and for publishing. Also in a country that is still not well served by bookshops, they help readers to have access to books. If there is any caution I would put to this, it's this: that I hope more and more of our lit fests keep a balance of English and Indian languages (I refuse to call them regional, it's insulting) and sell books in those languages, and I hope more and more of them go to smaller cities and towns.

PG: The Indian reader: is s/he changing? How?

UB: Absolutely. Readers are always changing; it’s difficult to say how, but what is clear is that the Indian reader is hungry for things to read, and that is for me the beginning of a major change, and they're open to all kinds of books, which is also important. Look at the genres in the market now, and they all jostle with each other and work: autobiography, fiction, detective fiction, cookery, cricket, blogs etc, etc, and in all languages, not only English. And there is so much exchange between Indian languages now, that that is really encouraging.

PG: Do you see a scenario where an Amazon-like book shop will take over the Indian publishing industry by becoming a publisher itself? Do you think Amazon itself can do it?

UB: I think Amazon already has plans to do it and so may Flipkart. Yes, I think there is a danger of that. It's the same danger that the big companies felt when they set up their mergers; they wanted to be a counter to Amazon, and for us, at the moment it is the big companies that we fear because we feel they will begin to dictate the market and we will not have a chance. So yes, I think every bigger dog will try to eat the smaller and different dog and that is a pity, but I guess that is the shape of things to come. Also, size brings its own rationale: we're seeing this now with Flipkart who are finding it difficult to deal directly with smaller publishers, and that means that the small advantage we could gain by giving them discounts that were not so killing as those our distributors took, will be lost to us. We'll have to sell through our distributors.

All in all, not such a grim scenario overall, but some things look a bit grim. Let's see if we can prove equal to the challenge.