Says Sugata Ghosh, director, Global Academic Publishing, Oxford University Press, in conversation with Varsha Verma. Regional language publishing is seeing a spurt in the growth and many bigwigs are now eyeing its potential. Oxford University Press is one such company which is now working towards their regional language publishing programme. “We will formally launch our Indian Language Publishing Programme in January 2018, beginning with two languages – Hindi and Bangla and will later push forward to other languages like Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Marathi and Gujarati,” shared Sugata Ghosh, director, Global Academic Publishing at Oxford University Press.
On asking about the kind of books they will publish, Sugata replied that these books will be academic reference titles which also cater to the civil services aspirants and general reference and serious non-fiction books. ‘The publishing programme will have two kinds of products – translations of existing books, which include the classics we have been pushing into the market and newly commissioned books. We will follow both print and digital versions,” he added.
Why regional language publishing?
“As of date, other publishers are trying to disseminate only printed format of the knowledge, which is the logistical side of publishing but the philosophical side of the programme is equally interesting and important for us. We have a largish programme across the globe which is called the Oxford Languages Programme, which is heavily subsidised by the Press. That is very close to Oxford University Press’ (OUP) mission to disseminate research. In South Asia, we strongly believe that it lies within the languages. If the languages start to die, it will give very difficult time for research in general and advancement of scholarship on which the world survives. In this backdrop, OUP, which has been into 100 years of its existence in India with many vernacular dictionaries, thought it is the best time to get into the regional language publishing, which constitutes almost 70% of our readership today,” told Sugata.
He further explained, “A large crowd of our country cannot access works of the top scholars of the country due to language problem. These works are majorly in English and even if translations are available for some works, the quality is not up to the mark and readers are deprived of the actual flavour and depth of the work. Thus, we are putting a lot of emphasis on the quality of translations. We are very excited to take some of our very good authors to the local languages to reach the larger audience. This will include not just the established ones but also young fantastic authors.”
Another important point Sugata mentioned was that business runs on stakeholders. “The most important stakeholders of this business are the authors, distributors, market and the readers. We found there is a huge gap between the experiences all the stakeholders get from a regional language publisher. We want people to know how global publishing works and how it is moving from a print-oriented to content-oriented publishing,” he said.
On Hindi & Bangla…
“Hindi is the third largest language and Bangla is the seventh largest language spoken in the world. Besides, one of our neighbour countries also has Bangla as their national language, which gives us ready market as well. The Hindi belt is equally big like English. We feel there is substantial market for these languages in West as well. So, these languages fit very well in our mission and also the need of the region and the world,” he said.
“We are even looking at possibility of getting the books printed and developed locally from respective regions, due to speciality and knowledge base. This will bring the regional flavour into the book. This might be expensive, but we want to do it correctly,” shared Sugata. “We will also look at reverse publishing, wherein we will translate original books from Hindi and Bangla into English,” added Sugata.
The formal launch…
“We will launch the Hindi books at the New Delhi World Book Fair 2018 while the Bangla books will be unveiled at the Kolkata Book Fair 2018. We are looking at around 20 titles to start with and by the end of the year, we should have around 40 titles each in both languages,” he said.
On asking about the pricing of these products, Sugata replied that prices will be market-driven. “Quality comes at a premium but there has to be value behind it. So, though we have not decided upon the prices, but they might be slightly lesser than the English versions,” he said.
Talking about the distribution set-up, Sugata shared that they will use their existing channels and local distributors. For example, they will tie up with local distributors in Bangladesh and West Bengal for Bangla titles.
The Oxford University Press advantage…
“Unlike other commercial organisations, where the life of the book is 5-6 months, Oxford University Press believes that a book is timeless and we work to keep it alive even if the sales go down. We create something where this content can be moved to a new platform. We have been doing this for English language content and we might use the same thing for regional languages as well,” told Sugata.
“There are fantastic readers in both the languages, who are simply waiting for this kind of content at affordable price and impeccable quality, which Oxford University Press is willing to offer,” concluded Sugata.
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