Saturday, April 24, 2010

Let’s read the fine print

Last week, Penguin Books CEO John Makinson said that there is no real market for books in India. White man he not speak with forked tongue. Surely he was referring to volumes in English publishing in India, which are indeed poor by Western standards. His candour is a refreshing change from the insane enthusiasm of foreign publishers who expect our market to explode any moment. But perhaps Makinson missed the ferment of activity in Indian language publishing, which churns out almost 50,000 titles every year. Everyone seems to miss this vernacular revolution hidden from angrez eyes.

But then I learned of the National Library’s plan to found a Museum of the Word to celebrate the many-layered history of shabda in India. In retrospect, it is amazing that we don’t have one in a country which is a Babel of tongues and a maze of scripts. And home to one of the two dozen undeciphered scripts in the world, courtesy the Indus Valley civilisation.

The National Library has just vacated its old digs in Kolkata in favour of a modern, climate controlled building. It is planning to turn the old heritage building, which was once the home of Warren Hastings, Bengal’s first Governor General, into the museum. Exhibits will range from clay tablets to printing equipment like superannuated letterpresses.

Full report here Hindustan Times

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