Penguin announced its foray into Indian language publishing yesterday. This is great news for Indian language publishing that has been languishing for lack of investment, entrepreneurial/business talent and editorial talent as well. The writing talent is very much there waiting to be tapped. Penguin's entry should provide some impetus and hopefully attract more entrepreneurial/business interest and investment into this sector.
Me and Badri have put our money where our mouth is and invested in starting up New Horizon Media Private Limited about an year ago to create content in Indian langauges. We've started out publishing in Tamil and have published over 60 titles so far under the kizhakku pathippagam imprint. All our titles (and those published by many other Tamil publishers too) are available for purchase online at www.kamadenu.com.
Back to Penguin's foray. According to Penguin India's official press release,
This April, Penguin India embarks on a new and exciting venture: a publishing programme in the Indian languages. Penguin India, which began with six original titles in October 1987, is today Asia’s leading English-language trade publisher, with over 1000 titles in print, including works by most of the subcontinent’s best writers. The launch of this Indian-languages list is, therefore, the next logical step in our growth as a publisher. With this unprecedented initiative we hope to reach a whole new readership.
The venture has special significance for the Penguin Group worldwide, since it is the first time that any Penguin company will be publishing in a language other than English. John Makinson, Chairman and CEO of the Penguin Group worldwide, who will be in Delhi to attend the launch ceremony and release the first batch of books, says, ‘A central theme of Penguin's strategy is our determination to develop the strongest possible publishing base in the emerging markets of India and China. We already enjoy a leading position in English-language publishing in India, but we have also identified an enormous opportunity in the regional languages. The new project being undertaken by our colleagues in Delhi is of great importance to all of us at Penguin.’
Thomas Abraham, President of Penguin India, adds, ‘Given the sheer diversity of the Indian market, publishing in languages other than English is but a natural extension of our commitment to making great books available in all parts of the country. We’re very excited at the prospect of discovering new talent as well as providing our existing authors with a new readership.’
Penguin’s publishing programme in the Indian languages will be launched on 16 April with four Hindi titles: Hamara Hissa, an anthology of contemporary Hindi stories edited by Arun Prakash; and translations of Khushwant Singh’s bestselling Paradise and Other Stories (Jannat Aur Anya Kahaniyan), Anita Nair’s Ladies’ Coupé (Ladies’ Coupé) and Namita Gokhale’s new novel, Shakuntala: The Play of Memory (Shakuntala: Smriti Jaal). Shakuntalawill be launched simultaneously in English and Hindi, which is, perhaps, a first in Indian publishing.
Through the rest of the year, Penguin India will, in addition to Hindi, publish in Marathi and Malayalam. More Indian languages will be added to the list in 2006. In every language, there will be a mix of original titles and translations of Penguin India’s most successful English titles. There will also be a selection of international classics and best-sellers from Penguin Group companies worldwide and other reputed publishing houses.
Among the forthcoming highlights in the language publishing programme are an anthology of stories in Marathi; and translations of Ruskin Bond’s selected stories, Arundhati Roy’s new book of essays, An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, and Shobhaa Dé’s most recent blockbuster, Spouse: The Truth About Marriage.
The Hindi and Marathi titles will be published in association with Yatra Books, New Delhi. Yatra Books is a new company committed to publishing high quality books in Hindi and the regional languages for cosmopolitan Indian readers who are more comfortable reading in their mother tongue. Yatra Books draws its talents from Bharatiya Anuvad Parishad which is a voluntary society set up in 1964 by Dr Gargi Gupta. The Parishad has done pioneering work in the academic pursuit of translation and in bridging the gap between English, Hindi and the regional Indian languages.
The Book Standard adds a bit more to the official release
Penguin is stepping up its attack on the growing Indian market with a local language program, the first non-English publishing from the 70-year-old house.
It will begin publishing in Marathi and Malayalam later this year, and is planning 25 titles in each of the three languages this year with similar output for the next two to three years. It plans to move into more Indian languages from 2006, and claims it is the first U.K. publisher to publish in regional Indian languages.
Penguin India president Thomas Abraham is predicting a "phenomenal growth curve" for Indian publishing. He estimates the Indian book market at $823m (£438m) with imports of around $36m (£19m), but Abraham believes the market has massive further potential: "Publishing in India is just about to come into its own. Consumer durables have taken off in India but the book market is not yet mature. We are at the beginning of what I think will be a phenomenal growth curve."
Penguin Group worldwide chief executive and chairman John Makinson, who will be in India for the launch on April 16, said: "A central theme of Penguin's strategy is our determination to develop the strongest possible publishing base in the emerging markets of India and China. We already enjoy a leading position in English-language publishing in India but we have also identified an enormous opportunity in regional Indian languages, just as we see huge potential over time in the Chinese language."
Forthcoming highlights for the new publishing program will be translations of Arundhati Roy's An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire and Shobhaa Dé's Spouse: The Truth About Marriage.
The books will cost between $3.30 (£1.75) and $4.15 (£2.20). Abraham said: "India is a low price market and the regional language markets even more so, so given the price sensitive market the books are about 25% to 30% cheaper than their English-language counterparts."
Abraham believes Penguin India has an advantage in that there is no single Indian publisher with its national presence. Current head count in India is 72 and there are no plans to take on more staff until the new initiative has "a proven track record."
The initiative comes a month after Makinson revealed an approximately $69 million (£37m) drop in profits for Penguin Group worldwide and job losses and restructuring at Dorling Kindersley. He replaced Anthony Forbes Watson as Penguin chief executive in February.
The Financial Express adds,
"It's a big development for the company'' given India's size, said Joanna Prior, a spokeswoman for London-based Penguin. India has a population of more than 1 billion. Prior had no estimate of Penguin's sales goals in the Indian languages.
Penguin's plan to offer local-language titles in India, where it's the largest English-language trade publisher, reflect recent moves to broaden its scope. Penguin in 2004 had a "difficult year,'' Pearson said in its annual results released on Feb. 28.
On April 5, Penguin will publish a Spanish-language edition of "The Secret Life of Bees'' by Sue Monk Kidd, which has sold more than 3 million copies in English, said Acadia Roessner, a New York-based spokeswoman for Penguin. Penguin has also begun several new imprints in the U.S., including one devoted to conservative political writings.