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2019 – Roller coaster ride for publishers

What were the trends noticed in 2019?



National debt under Modi govt surges

New Delhi, Dec 31 : It was a roller-coaster ride for publishers in 2019, thanks mainly to the after-effects of demonistisation, GST, the import duty on books and the economic slowdown, but the stakeholders remained upbeat.

“Like every year, this year also had its fair share of opportunities as well as challenges. The economic slowdown and introduction of import duty on books were some of the new challenges we faced, but at the same time, our increased engagement on raising readers with key stakeholders is raising the opportunities for us,” Neeraj Jain, MD, Scholastic India, one of the largest publishers of academic books for children, told IANS.

“While there were occasions to cheer, there were also occasions to be alarmed about. For example: GST posed a major problem to the publishers, eating away at whatever limited profit margin publishers have,” Trisha De Niyogi, Chief Operating Officer, Niyogi Books, told IANS.

The year was quite challenging, an Oxford University Press (OUP) spokesperson said, adding: “However, we have done decent in terms of sales – a combination of academic and serious nonfiction titles.”

“We can’t say this was a blockbuster year but a good one with a significant number of prominent works and debuts by reputed scholars and researchers. Our import list has done well in the Indian market with remarkable titles such as ‘Clients and Constituents’ by Jennifer Bussel, ‘The Absent Dialogue’ by Anit Mukherjee, ‘Resurgent Asia’ by Deepak Nayar and ‘Euro Tragedy’ by Ashoka Mody. We are extremely happy with these books – in terms of both sales and reviews! Several of our titles have also gone into the short and long lists of important awards,” the spokesperson added.

“It has been a successful year in terms of what we wanted to publish. There have been ups and downs in the business cycle. However, we have had some big authors publishing with us. We have received awards for some of our titles. Which always gives a sense of pride and achievement,” Aarti David, Director (Publishing) at Sage, said.

The year ended on a great note with “lots of books appearing on good ranks at Nielsen and Amazon including ‘Amit Shah and The March of BJP’, ‘Allahu Akbar’, ‘My Little Epiphanies’, ‘Kashmir’s Untold Story’, ‘Dear People with Love and Care’ and ‘Relentless’, a just to name a few.” a Bloomberg spokesman said.

What were the trends noticed in 2019?

“The year saw a plethora of successful debut novels, most of them by women, continuing a trend that began last year. The health of translations also seems to be in the pink. As expected, there have been several political books that reflect current discourses, and excellent history and investigative writing as well,” Teesta Guha-Sarkar of Pan Macmillan said.

Noting that Sage published in various genres targeting divergent audiences, David said: “We have found that Indian language publishing has been more challenging than we anticipated and this has been across languages and markets. Another key learning is that our customer needs more personalised attention and business transparency. The future is exciting as we begin to slice the data pie thinner.”

One of great things about children’s books, Scholastic’s Jain said, “is that there are so many genres to work with. The trends in books are like fashion, what was popular a decade ago comes back in a new form and starts trending again. Traditionally, children’s books have leaned more towards non-fiction. But we’re noticing an upsurge in fiction, of late”.

A lot of bonhomie was visible beyond the English publishing scenario, especially in the case of Bengali, Marathi and Malayalam literature, Niyogi said.

“The phenomenon of the rise of a number of niche publishers is enriching the scenario. As far as the English market is concerned, available statistics suggest that export of Indian books has seen a sizeable rise. This fact is further corroborated by India being selected as the guest country in at least three major international book fairs – Abu Dhabi, Mexico & Paris (forthcoming),” she added.

Pointing that there has been a return of illustrated books in the market, Niyogi said more and more publishers are now trying their hand in illustrated books on varied subjects like art, architecture, history, culture, cinema and more.

Niyogi also noted the rise of “speculative fiction, which encapsulates genres like cli-fi, sci-fi, dystopia and more. As a matter of fact, our science fiction, including the recently published ‘The Butterfly Effect’ by Rajat Chaudhuri, has seen a phenomenal rise in sales. Its literary merit is also being acknowledged all across the globe as well”.

“This year was quite interesting. We noticed biographies, self-help, business and political/election related titles filled shelves in 2019. While the world marked Mahatma Gandhi’s sesquicentennial year there were many books on Mahatma Gandhi and his ideologies as well,” the OUP spokesperson said.

Non-fiction did well, as has been the case the past few years in the subcontinent, a spokesperson for Simon & Schuster said.

The success of Tony Joseph’s ‘Early Indians’ published by Juggernaut “was the biggest and most pleasant surprise, since that means that more people are interested now in reading about history, civilization and culture. Literary fiction has gained immense popularity in the recent past, and awards like the JCB Prize for Literature and DSC Prize for South Asian Literature have been immensely helpful in recognizing and rewarding these titles”, the spokesperson added.

It was also the year of translations, with the popularity of writers like Permual Murugan, K.R. Meera and Manoranjan Byapari skyrocketing. Celestial Bodies written by Jokha Alharthi, the first Omani novel to ever win the Man Booker International Prize, was published by Simon & Schuster India this year in the Indian subcontinent to great success, the spokesperson said.

It was the year of big non-fiction releases, especially political non-fiction, Bloomberg said.

“Non fiction continues to be popular amongst readers, as do spiritual, self help and business books. We’ve had some real success with ‘The Steel Frame: A History of the IAS’ and more recently, ‘Black Warrant: Confessions of a Tihar Jailer’ by Sunil Gupta and Sunetra Choudhury,” Priya Kapoor of Roli Books said.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at [email protected])


The US presidential elections and future of India-US relations




Donald Trump Joe Biden

As the coronavirus pandemic dominates global news in the United States, progress toward the next presidential election scheduled to be held on November 3 moves slowly forward. President Donald Trump had no real opposition in the Republican party and is running for re-election. And it has now become apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden will be his opponent as the Democratic candidate for president.

What would a Trump victory bode for the future of US-India relations? What would a Biden victory bode? Let me answer each of those questions in turn.

Given the love fests of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas, in which Trump participated in September of 2019, and Trump’s ‘Namaste Trump’ event hosted by Modi in India in February of this year, it might be assumed that the future for US-India relations is a splendid one. This would be an incorrect assumption.

Both of these events were more symbolic than substantive. Trump’s participation in them undoubtedly helped to persuade some — perhaps many — Indian American Modi supporters who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to cast their ballots for Trump in 2020. Trump’s campaign team took steps to ensure this by holding an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in which a group of prominent Indian Americans announced their plans to work for his re-election and to mobilize Indian Americans on his behalf.

To understand the future potential of India’s relations with the US. with Trump as president, however, it is necessary to look beyond these political moves and to examine the present state of those relations and Trump’s personal style.

In a word, the best way to characterize the current relations between the US and India is “functional”. The relationship was relatively good for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. In fact, near the end of 2018, Alice Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, was quoted in the media s saying: “This has been a landmark year for US-India ties as we build out stronger relationships across the board.”

Then, in 2019, the relations went off the track in the first half of the year after the US and India got into a tit-for-tat tariff war after the US terminated India’s Generalized System of Preferences which allowed India to send certain goods to the US duty-free. There have been continuing efforts to structure a “modest” trade deal since then. It was thought there might be some type of deal done in September of 2019 while Modi was in the US by year’s end, and then during Trump’s India visit. But, as of today, there is still no deal.

This inability to get any meaningful trade agreement in place speaks volumes about India’s potential future relations with India with Trump as president. So, too does Trump’s style.

Trump’s campaign slogans this time around are “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” Trump is not a policy wonk and most of his effort will go toward “America First”. This involves making the US more isolated by withdrawing from international agreements, restructuring trade agreements, emphasizing building walls to stop immigrants at the border, using tariffs to block trade with countries who are taking away American jobs, and confronting businesses who are allegedlly stealing American trade secrets.

This perspective suggests what India can expect for its relations with the US if it has to deal with Trump for a second term as president. The relations will stay functional at best. As I have said before, that’s because the words partnership, cooperation and collaboration are not in Trump’s vocabulary. Nationalism, isolationism and protectionism are.

Joe Biden stands in stark contrast to President Trump both professionally and personally. Biden is a strategic thinker and doer with a solid eight-year track record of leadership experience as Vice-President in forging alliances that have made a difference around the world and he has also been a long-standing friend of India.

He was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading advocate for the Congressional passage of the Indo-US civic nuclear deal in 2005. At a dinner convened 10 years later in 2015 by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Vice President Biden discussed the tremendous joint progress that had been made by the two countries in the past and declared “We are on the cusp of a sea change decade.”

Early in his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in July of 2019, in laying out his foreign policy vision, Biden stated that the US had to reach out to India and other Asian partners to strengthen ties with them. The items on Biden’s foreign policy agenda for strengthening which are of importance for India include climate change, nuclear proliferation and cyberwarfare.

During his vice presidency, Biden worked side by side with President Barack Obama to do things that would contribute to achieving Obama’s vision stated in 2010 of India and America being “indispensable partners in meeting the challenges of our time.” In 2020, those challenges are even greater than they were a decade ago.

That is why it is so essential that India and the US develop a strategic relationship that enables them to become those indispensable partners. That can happen if Biden assumes the presidency on January 20, 2021. It cannot happen if Donald Trump remains as president for a second term.

The results of this upcoming election in the US matter greatly for the future of the United States. They matter greatly for the future of India-US relations as well. Time and the American electorate will tell what that future will be.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed here are personal)

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Covid-19 toll across world crosses 35,000

The COVID-19 is affecting 132 countries and territories around the world.



Patients infected with the novel coronavirus

New Delhi, March 30 : The death toll around the world due to coronavirus crossed 35,000 on Monday evening, with Italy heading the list of 35,097 deaths with 10,779, while the number of cumulative cases rose to 737,929, with US leading with 143,055 of them, as per data from the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Spain was second with 7,340 deaths, followed by China with 3,308 (3,186 of them in Hubei where the outbreak was first recorded), Iran with 2,757 deaths, France with 2,606 deaths, the US with 2,513 (776 of them in New York) and the UK with1,228 deaths.

In number of cases, Italy was second with 97,689, followed by Spain with 85,195, China with 82,198, Germany with 62,435, Iran with 41,495 and France with 40,747.

Meanwhile, 156,652 people around the world had recovered, with nearly half of them (75,923) in China, followed by 16,780 in Spain, 13,911 in Iran and 13,030 in Italy.

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45% of Indians do not back up their data, files: Survey

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.




Data Privacy

New Delhi, March 30 : Nearly half of Indians do not back up because they think their data or files are not important enough and most of those who back up their data, do it once a month, a survey said on Monday.

Other reasons cited by the respondents for not backing up their data included not knowing how to do it, not having time and forgetting about it, according to the survey by cybersecurity company Avast.

“It could be that many aren’t aware they are backing up, as it could be happening automatically, in the background, however, others really might not be backing up at all, thinking it is not worth it,” Luis Corrons, Security Evangelist at Avast, said in a statement.

“Losing personal documents, photos and videos can be a painful experience and it’s not until this happens that they realize how valuable it actually is,” Corrons added.

Of those who do back up their data, nearly 42 per cent Indians back up to a cloud storage, 36 42 per cent back up their data to an external hard drive, 23 42 per cent back up to a USB or flash disk, 18 42 per cent back up their phone to their PC, and 10 42 per cent back up to a network storage drive, the results showed.

Corrons recommended to back up data to two different locations, like the cloud, and a physical storage, like an external hard drive.

When it comes to iPhone and Android phone owners, the percentage that backs up is nearly the same, 69 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

The percentage of smartphone owners that don’t know how to back up their data does not vary much between iPhone and Android owners, with 13 per cent and 17 per cent claiming not knowing how to, respectively, the study revealed.

Data loss can be caused by users accidentally deleting their data themselves, hardware damage and failure, as well as malware, causing valuable data such as photos, videos, documents, and messages to be lost forever.

Ransomware and other malware, such as wipers, can either encrypt or completely destroy files, and there is no guarantee that files can be decrypted if a ransom is paid.

The survey was conducted among 728 Avast and AVG users between February 20-March 25.

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COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization.