Fri, Feb 27, 2009 - Page 8 News List

[LETTERS]

Publishing choice

In reference to Bradley Winterton’s book review of Rahul Jacob’s travelogue (“Going to lots of places and none at all,” Feb. 22, page 14), Winterton wonders very early on in his piece why Jacob did not publish this book in the West.

“The first thing to strike you about this book is its publisher. Shouldn’t the travel editor of the FT [Financial Times] be able to get a London or New York publisher for his book?” Winterton asks. “Did its being published in India mean that it had been turned down by more prestigious houses elsewhere?”

As someone who has also published a book in India, I take offense at this statement. My publishers in India have been nothing short of professional and they have given me the kind of attention and help that I do not think I would have received in either London or New York. In addition, India has one of the fastest growing populations of readers and a long history of storytelling — and is truly an exciting place for writers. So I do not understand the importance Winterton seemed to place on publishing in the capitals of the corporate world.

Even in the US, very often the best books are discovered and published by the small non-profit presses and the university presses. While the old saying asks us not to judge a book by its cover, the better advice perhaps is not to judge a book by its publisher, let alone by where it is published.

TSERING NAMGYAL

Iowa City, Iowa

Bradley Winterton replies: How nice to hear again from my old friend Tsering Namgyal! But I’m sorry he finds fault with what I wrote about publishing options in my book review. When he was working at the Taipei Times and looking for a publisher for his own first book some years ago he asked for my help, and I don’t remember him expressing a very strong preference for an Asian publisher at that time.

I’m glad he’s happy with the Indian publisher he eventually found, but the fact remains that a publisher from one of the old publishing centers such as London or New York is going to get a book far wider exposure than most Asian publishers are likely to be able to manage at present.

The key is distribution, and admirable though the best Indian publishers may be, and with growing potential in the new global situation, their ability to get books into bookshops throughout the English-speaking world, through no fault of their own, still can’t compare with that of the globally established publishers.

Rahul Jacob’s book was fascinating, and I realize he may well have made a deliberate decision to favor an India-based company with his debut publication (though Picador India is in fact a part of the Pan Macmillan publishing group). Nevertheless, I can’t help noticing that Picador India still doesn’t have its own Web site, and that Jacob’s book isn’t at the time of writing available through either Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. None of this bodes well for its wide distribution, though I realize — and hope — the situation may change for the better in the near future.

Defending Heritage?

I could not help but chuckle at Rupert Hammond-Chambers becoming the front man and stepping up to defend The Heritage Foundation in the “retirement” of Dr John Tkacik (Letters, Feb. 22, page 8).

The picture Hammond-Chambers paints would have us think that Tkacik’s “well-researched, principled” work and Heritage’s “reputation” would be a marriage made in heaven, so why did they divorce?

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