Odia publishers rediscover touch

Fresh ideas turn industry around

By Namita Panda in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 11.03.16
Kiosks of the publishing houses at Bhubaneswar Book Fair. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee

Bhubaneswar, March 10: For decades, publishing houses in the state have been highlighting the dismal condition of the industry, but new players are changing the game.

The state government is yet to formulate any policy for publishers and the promotion of the book industry in Odisha. Nevertheless, many publishing houses have emerged in the last few years with a completely different mindset about promoting their products.

These publishers believe the older houses were following a strategy that was outdated. This can be proved by how the newer publishers have managed to turn a profit in a very short span of time.

Pen In, a publishing house for Odia litterateurs, started around 10 years ago with only a couple of writers on its roster.

"I was working in the media industry and then worked as a public relations officer for a firm. But all the while, I was writing - both novels and poetry ensembles - and also encouraging upcoming writers by publishing a couple of hundred copies of their works initially, said Pen In founder Subhranshu Panda.

"I would either sell them online or at book fairs across the state and even outside. When all the copies were sold off, I published more copies. Now, we publish works of many authors and though we don't have a permanent store, we take part in book fairs and sell online," he said.

Panda, in his early thirties, said he is solely focussed on his publishing business now whereas previously, he managed it alongside a stable job. He feels the older publishing houses focus on too many things and as a result, incur heavy losses.

"We publish only literature and so it's easy to understand our target readers. But older houses publish academic texts, schoolbooks, literature and all sorts of books and are not able to cater to any one section of readers properly," said Panda.

Similarly, Saroj Bal is a well-known young author who founded Timepass Publications around 12 years ago. He brought in freshness into the cover designs with his own designing skills.

"I manage publishing alongside graphic design projects that I undertake for a constant income. But, the response to my publishing enterprise is increasing every day. We ensure a good reading experience for the reader with good quality paper and also striking jackets. We give much importance to the cover design," he said.

He believes this is something the older publishing houses need to come to terms with if they want to stay competitive.

Among the publishing houses that have emerged over the past decade are Pakshighar, Paschima, Book Movement and others.

Apart from publishing limited copies of an author to judge the readers' demand, these up and coming publishers also often host award functions and literary events. While Timepass hosted its annual awards recently along with a theatre show, it will organise a marathon book release function for about 20 books at the Bhubaneswar Book Fair on March 12.

Panda and Pen In recently hosted a literary evening where prominent authors, including Sitakanta Mohapatra, Ramakant Rath, Bibhuti Patnaik and others, took part in discussions and book release.

"Literary endeavours by youngsters is very significant and the efforts of Pen In and other newer publishing houses are admirable," said Padma Vibhushan Sitakanta Mohapatra. Veteran novelist Bibhuti Patnaik also emphasised that earlier a new writer would find it difficult to get published in the industry that had its capital in Cuttack. Now, with Odia publishers going online, there is endless freedom and possibilities for upcoming writers, he said.