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Publishing Next in Goa, India

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A week back after a monsoon heavy, hot hot hot weekend in Goa, adding to, prodding and hopefully providing stimulus to a packed two day discussion on the future of publishing through the Indian lens, and my ears, eyes and heart still feel full of the open, warm, most times heated conversations, fuelled by a passion and love for books.

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As the third largest market in the world for English language books, the Indian publishing industry has been a saviour to many publishing houses in the UK and the US over the last few years, whilst itself remaining an industry in a stage of flux, still finding itself on the cusp of validating and defining itself, still not recognised as a ‘proper industry’ by the Indian government.

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As flux and cusps go, filled with a deeply enterprising spirit, one where building new models is second nature — all deeply inspiring.

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Questions like, how do you create your own distribution and find smarter ways to bring books to where people actually are? You get shelf space for your titles in every grocery and home shop in your neighbourhood. Or, how do you overcome the focus on English language and nurture the publication of local languages? You start thinking about apps and eBooks as a way to allow smaller markets to flourish rather than a singular unifying reach for the mass. How do you make yourself a greater force to be reckoned with? Simple, you collaborate to make the few feel like the many.

At times, the weekend held all the contradictions and paradoxes of India, I’ve always loved and never stop to be amazed by, under one conference roof. With panel debates sparking conversations around the need for energy vs strategy, chance vs intent, on books having their own “kundalini” vs the industry needing more government legitimacy.

There’s a need to build a distinctive Indian publishing industry for sure, with an established infrastructure for books to reach readers, a healthy balance between English and local languages, and a recognised support structure for publishers who work so hard and care so much.

There’s also a need for the rest of us to look to India and remind ourselves of the benefits of looking sideways, being creative and open in the broadest sense, and not to undermine what it means to work through communities and not in isolation.

As with all my other trips to India, I came back from Goa, feeling inspired, feeling as though my narrow lens had been stretched and probably more than anything, a yearning to go back.

A big thank you to The British Council for inviting us to be part of the travelling delegation. And to Publishing Next for creating a space and opportunity to meet and talk to such wonderful people. To Leonard, Praba, Bibin, Mamta, Anil, Anusha and so many others, you all pushed me outside my London bubble and made us all think about what it means to be a real self starter, how far can-do can-get, and the always talked about but not often enough truly applied sense of community, reaching inside and outside industries and across to achieve what we hope for all the while celebrating wonderful books and getting closer to our readers.

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