In response to my questions to the soliloquy posted yesterday, the author of the blog, an IP lawyer made some more remarks that deserved attention: You can find his response on his blogpost: http://originalfakes.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/in-praise-of-folly/
This is my rebuttal:
This is my rebuttal:
Prashant, once you get over your misplaced notion that there is a neo-colonial conspiracy here, you might actually bother to make an effort at understanding the unique economics of publishing. Despite your commendation for my “candor” and your remonstration of what a “naïve job” I was doing, I will allow the readers of your blog (presumably there are some) to judge the merits of what is being said. Hopefully they will also judge which one of us is being “sanctimonious”. It would also do you good to examine how you write, so as to save yourself from feeling any ludicrousness. I am listing a few facts that should address the highlights instead of wasting my breath on a repartee:
1. About 30% to 40% of publishing activity in India is in English. So English is very much the single language in which most publishing is done in India and very much part of the term we know as “Indian publishing”. Hindi accounts for about 40% of Indian publishing (a term, which includes English language by the way). That leaves out 20% to 30% of the market for other Indian languages. “Vernacular” is a colonial term which creates a blanket identity for all the other languages in India, a term which many of us hate the use of.
2. I am also happy to inform you that small publishers in India, if you cared to check, are not threatened by the big publishers. We all co-exist because there is a lot of room to grow here just now and there are many of us waiting to grow. The infrastructure created by big publishers works to the advantage of small publishers and we are in fact able to place our books in different parts of the country thanks to this network. Contrary to your claim, the proposed amendment not only affects the big publishers, it affects all of us.
3. Publishers are businesspeople. Would you rather they depended on corporate funds and NGO funds like some publishers are now beginning to do? But publishers are not producing something that people know they definitely want, like textile manufacturers. Publishing is a hugely risk-taking business in a country where the reading habit is restricted to about 2% of the population. Per capita rate for book purchase in India is one book a year and not because of prices (which are the lowest in the world already!) but because our competition comes from Bollywood, television, and video games.
4. The publishing chain includes these actors: Publisher>Author/s>Editor>Designers+ illustrators>Process House(in the case of four colour books)>Printers (which includes binders, packagers)>Wholesalers/Distributors>Booksellers. Now do the math with a book that costs Rs 400. You talk as if the publisher is pocketing 40% and the editors, designers and printers are doing everything out of charity! Book pricing is based on a formula, which any publisher will be happy to explain to you. (Thanks for your offer to send me Ulrike’s book and Moveable Type, I have both with me already.)
5. Not all authors understand this chain either. But the author-publisher relationship is extremely different than relationships in any other industry. Publishers are not service-providers and authors are not clients. Publishers and authors don’t work like enemies forced to depend on each other. Many authors are just wonderful and become lifelong associates and friends. Some of them think theirs is the only bestseller-in-waiting that the publisher should pay attention to. They expect to be taken on book tours at publishers’ cost, get reviewed in every newspaper and magazine in the world and assume it can be “arranged” by publishers, and constantly complain about how their books are not available in some small back lane store of Timbuktu. Some of them treat the publishers like secretaries. Many people, like you, fail to see the investment it takes to put a book out there. And, many like you, fail to see that a published book is as much a publisher’s baby as it is an author’s. The copyright is the author’s for the text, but the edition is the publisher’s because of the investment that she has made in it. The publisher indeed has a huge hand in making an author a bestselling one. Which is why, the clause 2M which removes the publisher’s right to have a say in the author granting the import of foreign editions of the same book, is a GRAVE concern for Indian publishers.
6. Indian-languages publishing is a different scene altogether. The market is limited to readers in those languages, which reflects in the percentage I drew up in point no. 1. Before you take off again, I am fully aware that a bulk of the writing in Indian languages is in many cases far superior to Indian English writing. I have no idea on what basis you say that the quality of publishing is the same. I can’t find a Kannada book which is as well produced (technically, typesetting and print-production parameters), however good the writing is. But readership patterns of English language and Kannada language are very different in India. Undoubtedly things are changing (Navakarnataka recently published a book on the crisis of the mother tongues, in English, and it was nicely produced); and we are not yet at a stage where Indians are reading Indian literature emerging in the different Indian languages. The economics of differential book pricing between Indian and English language books is primarily because of costs involved in producing, marketing and distributing the book. If a Kannada publisher was selling his books in bookshops across the country, the overall price would definitely go up. Currently, his booksellers are sitting in a limited geography. His warehousing costs are less, he is hardly licensing any editions, he doubles up as editor in many cases etc. The chain is different. And yes, his author does get less at the end of the day than an author in English. That should change, and that can only change if more readers get added to Kannada than there are now and the geography of the spread increases. Simple market economics, no rocket science.
7. The logic of piracy is something I don’t know, and I can’t quite figure out what analogy you were trying to achieve with the Shobha De books. But I am confident that if a Kannada book became a bestseller (selling over 25000 copies) and got international attention you will find a pirate edition of it on Mysore’s streets. Pirate editions don’t come out until the book has received glamourised attention, as you may know already.
8. Like it or not, it is the Indian English publishing scene that has given a global face to Indian publishing. Many Indian language publishers are propelling themselves ahead by borrowing from lessons learned by English language publishers in India. Whether this is right or wrong is another debate and not in the purview of this one, but I assure you that the ones that do so are not complaining.
9. If the stakes set were high only for the “narrow set” of publishers as you described, how do you explain the Federation of Indian Publishers joining with the Association of Publishers in India and speaking for the wider set? Ever since the government lifted restrictions on foreign ownership in publishing companies in 2000, FIP has been complaining to the government about the “invasion of foreign capital” taking away profits. And yet, in this regard, the two parties have joined hands. Surely you don’t think that Indian publishers have no mind of their own and are under the thumb of the “colonial masters”?
10. Frankly, I don’t see how clause 32A counters the problems posed by parallel imports. I look forward to any useful insight into this.
11. I have no idea what you know of readership patterns in India. But yes, Stephanie Meyers is selling more than Amitav Ghosh for the simple reason that they are read by two different readership profiles. Young people in India form one third the population and 25% of them are readers, which is encouraging (NBT-NCAER study on youth readership). A sample survey conducted by the Tehelka magazine on book reading habits in Indian metros revealed that only 42% of book buyers were habitual readers, while others bought books for self improvement and English-language skills, i.e. books that have a take-home value. It is no wonder then that in 2009–2010, the industry saw an increase in the number of children’s books, management books, cook books, self-help and self-improvement books. However much fiction grabs headlines, the books that are really selling in big numbers are academic, management and how-to books.
12. Many of us in the publishing industry are fully aware of what needs to change within, and we have demanded stronger copyright laws ourselves. But allowing parallel imports is definitely not the answer. This is for those readers trying to make sense of why publishers are protesting: India has a unique publishing industry. The country positions itself today as a global hub of publishing, with a claim of 90,000 titles published in a year by an estimated 19,000 publishers (many of these are not registered with the national ISBN agency). It is also acknowledged as being the sixth largest book-producing country and the third-largest producer of English books in the world. This also makes it an attractive destination for foreign publishers from English speaking countries to work with India (USA, UK, Australia-NZ). With the economy developing at 8.8% and middle class rapidly entering the consumer sector, domestic publishing is thriving in India. Indian authors are slowly getting more bargaining power now than ever before. Many authors have come forward in support of the publishers’ protest. Unlike with other majority English-speaking and -publishing countries (and I don’t mean Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore which hardly have indigenous publishing activity) where organized publishing industry has existed for a far longer time to develop itself into a mature industry, India is not the same and neither is it culturally homogenous with the rest of them. What we want to read should not be dictated by other publishers, but should be selected by our publishers, who are far more in touch with the needs of a growing India, where we still battling with our unique demographics in education and literacy. Publishing in India is a fragile ecosystem.
I would like to point you to a few links for a different point of view than what the IP lawyers are presenting:
i.) Anurav Sinha in The Mint:http://www.livemint.com/2010/12/31203850/Writing-on-the-wall.html
ii.) Bloomberg video on a signature campaign:http://legalindian.com/2011/02/jaipur-literature-festival-2011-copyright-law-amendments/
iii.) Joint press conference by API and FIP:http://www.exchange4media.com/e4m/news/fullstory.asp?section_id=5&news_id=40748&tag=33242
Vinutha Mallya, Senior Editor, Mapin Publishing