How do publishers walk the line between necessary business considerations and their industry's commitment to freedom of thought and expression? A number of major international players were faced with this dilemma in recent months, having to ask themselves the question whether self-censorship might be the only way forward in countries where freedom of speech is restricted. Here, Juergen Boos, president and CEO Frankfurt Book Fair shares more. In August 2017, the world's oldest publishing house, Cambridge University Press (CUP), performed an act of self-censorship that sparked a backlash from academics and authors: On the request of the Chinese authorities, the publisher had agreed to remove hundreds of politically-sensitive articles from its China Quarterly website, a leading China studies journal. In a statement on its website, CUP had explained that this course of action was taken in order "to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market." As a consequence of blocking the articles that all discussed sensitive issues such as ethnic tensions in Tibet or the Cultural Revolution, a petition was launched and signed by hundreds of academics, threatening to boycott the publisher if its act of self-censorship was not revoked. The articles were then reposted, with the author of the petition and Professor of Economics at Peking University's HSBC Business School, Christopher Balding, commenting to The Telegraph: "Hopefully, this will prompt thinking by foreign universities and academics about how to best engage with China rather than accepting its censorship exports."

Juergen Boos, president and CEO Frankfurt Book FairTwo more recent cases involving Chinese authorities saw Australian publisher Allen & Unwin as well as Springer Nature choosing the route of censoring, with the former actually deciding not to publish a book in its home market for concerns about Chinese retaliation. A step dubbed "a watershed" moment by Professor Clive Hamilton, author of the work in question, Silent Invasion: How China is Turning Australia into a Puppet State, that investigates the Chinese Communist Party's influence on Australian politics and academia. The publisher’s official statement spoke about delaying publication "until certain matters currently before the courts have been decided." In order to comply with local regulations, Springer Nature blocked access to, according to FT research, around 1,000 articles containing China critical content, using the same reasoning as CUP a few months earlier: “We'd rather make concessions affecting only a fraction of our output than risking accessibility to the rest of our output for our Chinese audience.”

Another note-worthy instance of self-censorship to avoid falling foul of local laws involved a publisher editing out part of a book's plot in its Russian edition – without informing the author. Victoria Schwab's Shades of Magic fantasy trilogy features LGBT characters and stories and its Russian publisher Rosman censored certain romantic scenes to comply with Russia's so-called "gay propaganda" law, banning the spreading of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations." Otherwise, the work would have been shrinkwrapped in plastic and given 18-plus rating, i.e., missed out on reaching the book's major target readership.

The dilemma that publishers face in all of these cases is clear: On the one hand, their international and licensing business is of vital economic importance so that failing to comply with local legislation and thus risking legal action can have significant consequences. On the other hand, publishing houses are by nature committed to free speech and have a responsibility to provide international access to their content, no matter the topic or critical approach. There's also their authors to consider and the message self-censorship sends to them. In the CUP case, the outrage and show of solidarity was immediate, creating pressure for the publishing house to react.

If regimes such as the Communist one in China have the power to resort to blackmailing techniques and publishers are confronted with laws, as in Russia, manifesting attitudes that are the polar opposite to liberal thought and enlightened thinking, how do you react as a content business whose very existence depends on openness and free expression of opinions? "No doubt, this is a vital issue for our industry, and publishers are being put in an incredibly difficult position by these restrictions on freedom of expression. As the Schwab-Rosman case in Russia has shown, there are certain principles, beyond all short-term economic considerations, that need to be upheld, since both the trust between author and publisher, and freedom of expression are core assets of the publishing industry," says Dr Jessica Sänger, director for European and International Affairs, German Publishers and Booksellers Association.

Navigating the tricky business of publishing content in a country where it has the potential to break local regulations does not necessarily have to result in situations that require self-censorship. German publishing house Links, for example, didn't encounter any issues when publishing a book in China on how readers in the former GDR undermined censorship, "I was surprised how easy it was and we had no problems finding a Chinese academic publisher, Social Science Academic Press, for our book," says publisher Christoph Links. And adds, "Turkish publisher Belge will publish a book of ours on the Armenian genocide and although this topic is a political taboo in Turkey, its historical interpretation is not codified in law. In many other countries, however, national law defines how certain historic occurrences are to be interpreted, so publishing titles that infringe such legislation requires a dialogue with the licensee to find a common understanding how to handle the situation."

Despite publishers succeeding in bringing critical content to countries considered to clamp down on certain sensitive issues, the fact that self-censorship crops up in so many different places and in various shapes and forms is a concern for the industry that requires cooperation on an international level, including sharing experiences on the realities of trying to walk the line between business interests, restrictive laws and freedom to publish: "Open discussion of the issue with all its implications is paramount for our industry in this context," stresses Juergen Boos, president and CEO of Frankfurt Book Fair. When countries such as China sign up to the International Publishers Association, with its guiding principle of freedom to publish, while at the same time pursuing a policy of censorship, the industry is clearly faced with an issue that raises a range of complex questions that won't be easily answered. Answers, however, and a long-term approach will have to be found.”

Juergen Boos will be speaking on Self-censorship at the upcoming IPA Congress 2018 in New Delhi, India.

The IPA was founded in 1896 by the largest publishing houses of the time, to promote and protect publishing worldwide, and to act as a watchdog of copyright and freedom to publish. Today it is still pursuing the same important mission. Dr Michiel Kolman, president, International Publishers Association at his opening address at Moscow International Book Fair shared his views on piracy and freedom of speech. Excerpts. Russia has a rich culture and history, both of which are immortalized by the immense canon of literature for which Russia is so admired. The list is enormous, from the mighty classics of Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky to the modern yet just as potent output of Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn and Nabokov.

Russia is an old nation that has undergone great changes but never lost sight of its identity – and this is a quality that the IPA shares. Underpinning the IPA’s mission are the pillars of copyright and freedom to publish – both indispensable principles that are facing unprecedented challenges today.

On copyright…

In the copyright arena, the IPA’s international lobbying focus is on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. The IPA is the first line of defence in the supranational IP treaty process, advancing the interests of publishers and the IP industries at WIPO’s most important decision-making fora. WIPO is the key battleground where the competing interests of copyright holders and opponents of copyright are fought out. Combat metaphors may be crude, but they are nonetheless applicable. The international copyright frameworks that safeguard creativity have never been under a more determined, sustained, and well-funded attack.

Powerful technology companies are bankrolling and waging a strategic campaign to weaken copyright worldwide by, among other things, evangelizing for increased ‘Fair Use’ exceptions. It is no accident that, in recent years, a succession of countries has launched copyright law reviews that include expanded fair use provisions.

The IPA is meeting this challenge head-on, weighing in to these national processes and flagging the potential long-term damage to creativity, literacy, education and employment done by undermining copyright.

We continue to work with our members and partners to ensure decision-makers are in possession of facts when they consider legal changes whose effects may be major, wide-reaching and long term. One such effect is the impairment of publishers and authors from making a proper return on their creativity, be it through inadequate copyright laws, or through deliberate violations and piracy.

Piracy in Russia…

And at this point I’d like to applaud the resolute steps being taken in Russia to tackle the book piracy epidemic. According to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, between 25 and 30 percent of Russia’s overall book market is counterfeit – including schoolbooks.

Inferior quality counterfeit books in classrooms mean pupils get an inferior quality education. Not only that, but counterfeiting and piracy mean publishers do not benefit from the return on their investments, which curtails their ability to take risks and innovate, and to better prepare Russian children for the knowledge economies of the future.

We’re encouraged that the State is starting to take the matter seriously, and mounting a legal response. As a side note, some of the problems may be addressed by the removal of the high 18% VAT levy currently imposed on e-books in Russia, which would bring them into line with the zero rate applied to print books. After all, a book is a book whatever its format.

But we can be certain that without consistently applied proactive counter measures and communications campaigns to sensitize a Russian population that’s largely unconcerned about this crime – then the problem will get steadily worse.

Piracy comes in many forms, some of which may even lend it a veneer of acceptability. In the science domain, Sci-Hub is a source of global concern, and one that I’m sure publishers and governments everywhere want to address together.

Such platforms undermine the science publishing ecosystem that researchers and universities worldwide rely on for communication, validation and quality assurance.

Sci-Hub’s voluntary withdrawal from Russia this week was welcomed by many in the scientific publishing community, but further proactive action is needed to properly address the problem.

On freedom to publish…

The second pillar of the IPA is the freedom to publish. Violations of this right around the world are commonplace, with daily reports of writers and publishers coming under pressure. It is the IPA’s duty to challenge censorship wherever it occurs – as we did recently in China, when Beijing asked for the removal of a selection of online academic publications by Cambridge University Press. At first CUP felt it had no choice but to comply, but then it reinstated the articles, which we believe was the right thing to do.

The IPA criticized the Chinese authorities for attempting to impose academic censorship, and undermine freedom to publish and academic freedom, which are essential for the advancement of the science. We wait to see what Beijing will do next.

Another example is in Russia, where the IPA has been debating the problematic anti-gay propaganda law, which is compelling publishers to censor texts to avoid criminal liability. The law poses many questions beyond the immediate issue it seeks to address – questions about freedom of expression, commercial sensitivities, the sacred bond of trust between authors and publishers. We believe this law needs to be reviewed, because its good intentions to protect minors may in reality be doing more harm than good.

Fifth Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair reflects continuing growth in children’s market

The dynamism of the fast-growing children’s book market in China will be very evident at the fifth Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF) (November 17-19, 2017, Shanghai World Expo Exhibition Centre) with over 350 exhibitors attending from 35 countries or regions. The show is dedicated to the publishing, printing and distribution of content for 0 to 16 year-olds, including books, magazines, audio-visual material, educational and recreational products – (comics, cartoons, animations, music, film and games). CCBF 2017 is fully supported by Shanghai Press & Administration, and approved by China State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Over 60,000 new titles from all over the world will be on display in 25,000 sq metres of exhibition space, over a third of which is devoted to overseas publishers. This year’s fair will include many first-time exhibitors such as Sweden’s Bonnier, Tohan from Japan, and Penguin Random House.

The Fair is promoting illustrated children’s books through the Golden Pinwheel Young Illustrators Competition, which returns for its third year. The competition is designed to showcase new talent from around the world, and this year a record 3,655 entries have been received from artists in 37 countries. The winning entries will once again be announced during the Fair and displayed at a special exhibition.

While, an Authors’ Festival will bring overseas authors and illustrators to tour bookshops and other venues in Shanghai to meet young fans as well as attending events at the Fair itself.

“Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, such as phonoaesthetics (the possible connection between sound sequences and meaning), sound symbolism, and metre to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.” This is how we can technically describe poetry. But there’s a lot more to it. WORDS are nothing but expressions; EXPRESSIONS are nothing but emotions; EMOTIONS are nothing but feelings; FEELINGS are nothing but poetry; POETRY is nothing but soulful words and; in poetry every word has a SOUL. With these soulful thoughts of Irshad Kamil, Smita Dwivedi tries to bring little essence of poetic world in conversation with Mandira Ghosh and Sukrita Paul Kumar. When there is so much to express about anything that one fall short of words, then we always read and refer poetry. For better understating and more information about poetry, we spoke to Mandira Ghosh and Sukrita Paul Kumar.

Mandira’s published works include Aroma, New Sun, Song in a City, Folk Music of the Himalayas, The Cosmic Dance of Shiva, Shiva and Shakti, Cosmic Tour, Tantra, Mantra and Yantra and Impact of Famine on Bengali Literature. She has been awarded with a Senior Fellowship of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India for her project on ‘Impact of Famine on Bengali literature’. She is the Present Treasurer of the Poetry Society (India) and has received Editor's Choice Award twice by the International Society of Poets, Maryland USA.

While, Sukrita Paul Kumar was born and brought up in Kenya and at present she lives in Delhi. She held the Aruna Asaf Ali Chair at the University of Delhi, till recently. An Honorary Fellow of International Writing Programme, University of Iowa (USA) and a former Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, she was also an invited poet in residence at Hong Kong Baptist University. She has published several collections of poems in English including, Folds of Silence, Without Margins, Rowing Together and Apurna. Her poems have been selected and translated by the eminent lyricist Gulzar has been published by HarperCollins as a bilingual book, Poems Come Home. A recipient of many prestigious fellowships and residencies, Sukrita has lectured at many universities in India and abroad.

AABP: How’s poetry writing different from general writing?

Mandira GhoshMandira: Writing poetry is much more difficult compared to general writing and more than anything else understanding poetry is difficult. Poetry even if it is penned in blank verse can be distinguished by the poet's craftmanship. It is a craft and should be distinct from the ordinary prose or general writing by the theme, handling of language, use of poetic devices, imagery and lyrical quality. Above all the poets are the most sensitive and humane of all.

Sukrita: Indeed there is a vital difference. In the writing of poetry, one takes off into a totally different domain of consciousness. Even the mundane and the ordinary get transported into a world that is charged with a different life-throb. Ironically, at the same time, there is an acute realization of the ground reality in capturing the very source of experience that may cause the “take off.” If one chooses to remain on the ground and not take the plunge to transcend, there are other faculties that come into play, that of analysis, logic, description more than imagination and emotion. That’s when the intellect may produce a very impressive and effective prose but not poetry. For a poem, imagination, emotion and a fearless honesty have to come together for an inspirational expression.

AABP: How did you start as a poet? What you enjoy more, being a poet or an author?

Mandira: I enjoy being a poet. I was a student of science stream and even a distinction holder in Chemistry. Later on, I studied Mathematics and Economics in graduation. I am a graduate from Indraprastha College, Delhi University. Indraprastha College had a vast collection of books especially of English and Bengali literature. Before that in school, when my Physics teacher used to teach the chapters in Sound, I used to think where am I? In a class room? I should have been in the lap of nature, near a stream enjoying the sound of birds chirp and murmur of the stream. While studying Real Analysis in Maths class, I picked the terms Absolute, Infinite and could bring also Metaphysics and Mathematics in poetry. I was a very serious student, and studied different subjects at different times as a part of and outside syllabus and enjoyed combining all knowledge in both poetry and prose.

Sukrita: Start as a poet? No, there can’t be a pretension there. What is imperative is a compulsion, a compelling need to grapple for the right words. An imposition of any kind is a deterrent from the purity of intention and execution. As an author of critical works, when intellect plays a greater role, I am more preoccupied with analytical skills that may take me to greater understanding and, also perhaps create new ways of approaching a literary text. Passion is an ingredient in both kinds of writing. The joy in each case is different. When in the process of creative writing words fail, a strange wrenching in the heart makes one ask: why the hell do I have to suffer this. But one can’t give up either! The bliss comes at the end of a new beginning….

AABP: How easy or difficult is it to publish poetry?

Mandira: Though it is difficult to get published, it was quite easy for me. I sent my manuscript of my first volume of verses, Aroma, which happen to be my first book too to Prof P Lal of Writers Workshop, Kolkata, on advice of Dr HK Kaul, president, The Poetry Society (India) and he readily agreed. I have great regard for both of them as for them my journey to writing and getting published became easy. Prof P Lal also published my book Cosmic Tour which is my favourite. In India, English poetry survived because of people like them. Sanjay Arya of Shubhi Publications is publishing my tenth book – A volume of verses on Benares which I am penning for the past five years.

Sukrita Paul KumarSukrita: Getting an audience for poetry doesn’t at all seem challenging but getting publishers for poetry is a totally different story. I don’t know why. Ask the publishers or the readers who want to listen to poetry but perhaps not buy it….

AABP: Would you like to share your experience with publishers?

Mandira: They should be less materialistic and honest. Again an honest businessman is an oxymoron.

Sukrita: I have had a reasonably smooth sailing perhaps because I decided that though publishing my poetry was important to me; my writing would not be hinged on whether or not a book is published when I am ready with some poems. There have been periods of endless waiting but then there have been moments when the book may happen suddenly. My books Poems Come Home, Dream Catcher, Rowing Together, Without Margins and some others happened that way!

AABP: How do you see market for poetry books in India?

Mandira: Marketing does not interest me at all. But so far as I understand, distribution should be more properly done. There are people who could be interested in reading a particular poet but it may not reach him. With English language poets like us, it is comparatively easy because of internet revolution but a poet does not gain anything financially out of it. Many of the poets have to purchase their own creation from the publishers. It does not bother me, as I am a real bard, happy singing my verses.

Sukrita: Bhasha literatures, I believe, at least in Hindi and Urdu, have a large number of poetry books selling. They may or may not be “packaged” as well as the ones in English. But then I think there is also this problem of more and more of vanity publishing of poetry in English which only shows the impatience of poets to publish books without any critical discrimination. Our critics should perhaps wake up and give effective critical responses and reactions.

AABP: Poetry and poems played a very important role in India’s freedom struggle and even during 70s, we have great Indian poets, but now there is nothing like that. In your opinion, what are the reasons for it?

Mandira: People have become materialistic. Ambition and to acquire money have become the norms. Now money is the Mantra. Poetry-money are oxymorons. When commerce and economics only rule, poetry takes a back seat.

Sukrita: Greatness gets determined with time. I am sure we have very good poets writing today as well, in many Indian languages. Let critical sifting happen, names will emerge eventually. With poets such as Kunwar Narain, Jayanta Mahapatra, Surjit Patar and many others as our contemporaries, I am not at all pessimistic. There are more and more poetry festivals that are being organized all over the country…therefore more and more audiences!

Poetry turns words into art. It can hurt and it can heal. It can express emotions even in the most intensely joyous or grievous times. When we mention poetry, who could forget everlasting melancholy words of poets like William Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Percy Shelley, John Keats, Lord Byron, Rabindranath Tagore, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Edgar Allen Poe, and Emily Dickinson? Urdu poets like Ghalib, Zauk, Meer have a great impact on thoughtful poetic brains.

But when we talk about poetry in general, majority of Indians will pick some famous Bollywood songs. So, in my opinion the greatest poets of modern times are lyricists who have given words to most of our feelings and emotions. So, here we bring views of three best lyricists of Indian cinema – Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Irshad Kamil on poets and poetry.

Gulzar’s copyright on moon!

If anyone hasn’t heard about Gulzar or his works, he’s surely an alien to literature. Although the word ‘Gulzar’ literally means a blossoming garden, yet it is not enough to describe a literal legend like Gulzar. His recognition as a lyricist was through the song “Mora Gora Aang” from the movie Bandini, which gave him instant fame and the much-awaited appreciation for his writing talent. Having a career spanning over five decades in Hindi cinema, he still feels that he is the ‘Man of Literature’. “I like writing…it helped me in expressing myself. Literature has been my background…from literature I went to movies and again came back to literature. I have been writing mainly in Urdu…it’s my medium of writing. But now my works have been translated to several other languages,” says Gulzar.

On asking what he likes most about his writing, he gave a confident reply… “Poetry.” He added, “I have written fiction, plays, poetry, screenplays, stories etc.…but poetry remains my lifeline…it’s my bloodline. I am always a poet by heart. I have volumes published in Urdu and Devnagri.” Gulzar’s poetry soothes the soul. He has the great ability to express intricate human emotions with simplicity. Through his poetry, he not only conveys love and emotions but also addresses serious issues and subjects.

Javed’s sweet bitterness and bitter sweetness

As per Javed Akhtar, “Words mean fragrance of honesty and sincerity. And it has to come from heart to make its impact.” A collection of poems in a form of book which he complied over the years has been great success. As per Javed, “These poems are the one enjoyed the best…because I don’t have to write as per the demand. It’s my personal thought…wrapped in a poetic way.” While expressing his general views on poetry in today’s world, he was bit disillusioned and added, "The generation has changed a lot; poetry has lost its value. But there are many people who are still interested in it. As far as the younger generation is concerned, they have forgotten it because it was never a part of an education system and their environment. The understanding of the craft is a bit limited."

On sharing his journey as a poet he added, “Somehow I didn't write poetry for long. Firstly I wanted to be a film director and always wanted to join films. Moreover, there were so many poets around that being a poet was not an accomplishment for me. But when I started poetry, it was a welcome change for me. I actually started writing poetry perhaps at the age where people stop writing poetry…it was in late thirties and within a few years I found a great amount of appreciation and recognition. It was really kind of others.”

His first collection of old Urdu poetry Tarkash was released in 1997 and today is in 11th edition, “If you read Tarkash and Lava you will find poetry of different genre. I write what I feel. No one can fake poetry. My poetry is strong it's about sweet bitterness and bitter sweetness of life and society it's not about soft romance,” he added.

Jab We Met...Irshad Kamil a Rockstar!

At a tender age of five, he started appreciating words and even created a poem. Well, these were the unnoticed spurts of the birth of the poet: Irshad Kamil. “One has to be in love, feel love and celebrate love within him first then only he can write words that will touch every heart and I have my stories too. It’s a gradual process and result of years of personal, emotional and inspiration journey that leads us to a point where we are now,” he says.

Irshad’s songs are his imaginative revelations, yet to be decoded by all. But movie Rockstar is the closest to the reflection of this Lyricist. Writing for Rockstar, Irshad effortlessly unleashed the real rebellion that he is... Rockstar was a catharsis…an experience of returning to oneself…reclaiming oneself.

Having a successful and satisfying career in Bollywood, writing a book was neither an impulsive nor an easy thing for him. It was a long yearning within him to write a book. As he shared, “Poetry is a free process; it is like flying in the sky. Writing songs too is similar to flying in the sky but within limits, as there are a number of factors to be taken into account. But there is more freedom when you are writing for yourself, than when you are working for someone else. For films, you have to keep the story and characters in mind, whereas while writing poetry, our emotions and thoughts flow without any constraints. I have been writing poetry since a long time. My first book, Ek Mahina Nazmon Ka, has been written in a particular nazm meant for my young followers and fans and has the tagline Love’s Long Biography. As the title suggests, it is a book on love with a very contemporary feel to it.”

–Smita Dwivedi

says Vijay Ahuja of Delhi Book Store in conversation with All About Book Publishing.

Delhi Book Store (DBS) is in the business of distribution of printed books for the last seven decades. “In last seven decades, we have seen a lot of ups and downs and have always managed to sail through the tough times. We opted for this business to provide good quality foreign books to booksellers and libraries for supply. We envisage a new world—a world of knowledge and wisdom—a world of enlightenment where DBS will make the path of distributing books to everyone in the trade,” says Vijay Ahuja of Delhi Book Store.

“It is a known fact that books which have good contents and are useful for research in any field are published by international authors. Because of economics involved, printing these books is expensive and can only be purchased by libraries of universities and research institutes,” he adds.

“What has happened in last couple of years is not good for growth of this country. Most of the libraries have increased the discounts at which they buy books. This has led to a scenario in which libraries are only focusing on discounts and not on content. We can't solely blame libraries for this scenario, we have to look at a wider scenario and get to the base of the problem,” he says.

“Government has spent millions in creating library buildings but has not spent enough in filling them with good books. As a result, we have buildings, but not enough books. Gone are the days when during New Delhi World Book Fair, faculty members of various institutes used to visit the fair to make outright purchase/selection of books. There are institutes which have not received any funds to buy books in the last couple of years. And those who were lucky to get some funds have managed to renew journals only. There is no clarity on when these institutes will receive grants to buy books and the institutes which have received some grants have made a huge list of "Do's & Don'ts." This has made it next to impossible for booksellers to supply them books. How this country is going to achieve the aim of "Make In India" when students/researchers will not have books to read? All development work will corne to standstill if researchers will not get books to read. Booksellers have invested huge amount in stocking books and if funds are not released soon to libraries, then these booksellers won't be able to survive. Bookselling is a noble business; it shouldn't be called as business at first place as it's a service to the nation. We propose that information about availability of funds to buy books should be given at UGC's/HRD Ministry website well in advance. We strongly believe that very soon things will improve and Government would release sufficient funds for purchase of print books by institutes and booksellers will have good time once again,” concludes Vijay.