The United States has by far the largest publishing industry of any nation in the world, followed by China and Germany. Some of the fastest growth is seen in national markets across Asia and the Middle East. Young populations with access to the Internet on smartphones are demanding content that is relevant to their dynamic circumstances.
In 2016, our weekly program heard from publishers and authors across several continents. Out of those interviews emerged a familiar picture of problems and promise in the face of digital disruption.
Translation, as Salman Rushdie has noted, has its roots in the Latin for “bearing across.” Books and other works in translation are the readers’ tickets to others’ nations and cultures. Born in Mumbai, or Bombay as it was known then, Rushdie acknowledges the common fear that something always gets lost in translation, yet he hopes, too, that something can be gained. In his native India, where there are 22 official languages and easily 100 more also spoken, publishers have a bounty of languages to get lost in and to gain from.
To learn more about the potential and the power of translation in the Indian publishing economy, I called in to New Dehli, where I spoke with Prashasti Rastogi, director of the German Book Office and with poet and novelist Minakshi Thakur. As a commissioning editor at HarperCollins Publishers India, Thakur keeps watch for new and exciting authors across the spectrum of Indian languages, and she explained for me how she manages that daunting task.
Everywhere in the world, the future of reading lies in many hands – in the small hands of children who read today on printed books and digital tablets alike, and it lies in the professional hands of publishers, who must anticipate changes in business models and technology even as they adapt to them.
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi is a strong advocate of literacy among individuals of all ages, and she has to her credit a number of publishing initiatives. She is both founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, based in the Emirate of Sharjah, one of the states of the United Arab Emirates. Her business initiatives, she told me, have deep roots in her passion for reading.
Attending the 2016 Digital Book World Conference in New York City from here native Thailand, Trasvin Jittidecharak was as eager as any to learn how technology is transforming the book business. Her perspective, though, makes Trasvin’s reactions especially worth hearing. She founded Silkworm Books in 1987, and over nearly three decades Silkworm and Jittidecharak have earned a reputation for producing quality English language books on the culture and society of Southeast Asia. She sketched for listeners how the rise of digital devices is affecting readers as well as publishers.