So you recently wrote a novel which was accepted by a publisher? Great!

Now, you probably think that your work is over? Well, unless you are Salman Rushdie or J.K. Rowling, the answer is a big NO. As a matter of fact, even the most famous authors don’t stop at just getting the book out in the market. The importance of marketing in today’s book business cannot be discounted at any cost. Good marketing can help increase sales and make future book sales easier for you.

If you are a first time writer or a relatively unknown author, then marketing is all the more important. There is a concept of market pull and push. In case of J.K. Rowling, the market pulls in the book while in the case of a first time writer; it is market push which is required. Pushing in a book into the market resulting in sales is not that easy for a first time writer. In this age where hundreds of new books get released every week, you need to market it effectively so that the reader deems it fit to be bought.

Even before I start discussing ways of marketing your book, you need to answer one question. Do you have confidence in your book? If the answer is yes, then read on. If you say no, then no one can help you. Book marketing starts with believing in your baby. Sales will follow.

One of the main reasons for a book’s failure is lack of marketing. If no one hears about your book, then what’s the point in writing? After all, you wrote because you wanted your story to be heard, right?

Your book may have been published by a traditional publisher, self-published or through Print on Demand (POD) but no one will know about it unless you as the author are ready to take the next step; that of marketing and promotion. Unless you can afford to hire your own publicist or PR company, the onus of marketing the book is entirely your own. Contrary to the opinion of professional PR firms, there are many low cost ways to promote yourself and your book. Marketing is all the more important if:

1. You are a first time writer
2. The book is self-published
3. The book has been published through POD
4. All the above

In case your book has been published by a traditional publisher, you’ll find that they do a lot of marketing for you, but that is not enough. You will still need to contribute in the marketing exercise if you wish to see your book sell and make it to any of the best seller charts. So here are a few ways you can market your book.

Get Reviewed

This is the most effective way of getting people to talk about your book. Getting reviews for your book is easier that most forms of marketing but it is the credibility of the reviewers that matter. Aim first to get them reviewed by the best reviewers. This can be very difficult unless you have common contacts. Good reviewers are wary of taking on first time writers and this is because of the deluge of books that the market has been flooded with. And a major portion of these books are by first time writers. Since the quality of most of the books in terms of content is questionable, the good reviewers stay away from them.

The next step should be to target publications that have readers whose interests make them a likely target audience. Book reviews by actual readers of the book also matter. So, if you know someone who bought your book, then get in touch with them and ask for feedback. Tell them to blog about it or put their reviews on the online bookstore’s site. This usually works since prospective readers/customers are limited in their ability to search reviews from varied sources themselves.

Get into that bookstore

If your book has been published by a traditional publisher, then getting your book to the bookstore is not your headache but if it has been self-published or through POD, then it is the author’s responsibility of exploring that option. Nowadays, POD service providers provide distribution services as well for bulk orders.

Authors should build relationships with bookstore owners. Get in touch with them; bring up the topic of getting them to stock your book. If it needs, tell the owners/managers that you will do a book reading or book signing session. You will have more influence and success in independent bookstores, since chain stores work with wholesalers and distributors.

Get back in touch

So what if the last college you attended was 10 years back, you are still an alumnus. Your alma mater still needs you and so do you. You have written a book and you are proud of the fact so why not let your college know about it, not with the intention of selling the books but to get the word around. The current students of your college could well be your future buyers.

This applies to all your previous companies as well. Unless you fought before you left the company, they too would be proud of your achievements. Let them know about your book.

Personal Promotion and Social Networking

Internet marketing has changed dramatically in the last 3-4 years, with many new applications and tools. Create a personal website which needn’t be fancy–just enough to present information about your book and create a buzz. In addition to describing the book, you can post reviews and offer a free chapter to readers. This will create that interest that you are looking for. The eyeballs to sales conversion rate increases dramatically if the prospective readers/buyers can find all the required information about you and your book all at the same place.

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter Myspace etc can be excellent marketing tools for your book promotion. Book marketing through social networking sites take time and effort, so you can’t give up after only a few days.

As a first time author, your main objective is to hammer your name and the name of your book into the public consciousness. Use all your creativity in such a way that not only does it increases sale for your current book but will also improve your chances of successful marketing next time.

There are many other ways of marketing your book. An author just needs to use his/her imagination to tap into some unexplored marketing goldmine. Always remember, there is nothing called overnight success. It might take you years to achieve that overnight success. At the end of the day, you will become very tired but very enlightened. Believe me; it is very satisfying to see all your hard work pay off.

Pijush Gupta is the author of “Have a Pleasant Journey” published by CinnamonTeal. He blogs at www.pigtale.co.in

VIKRAM KARVE born in Baramati Pune and educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi and The Lawrence School Lovedale Ooty, is an electronics and communications engineer by profession, a human resource and training manager by occupation, a teacher by vocation, a creative writer by inclination and a foodie by passion.

An avid blogger, he has written a large number of fiction short stories, professional, technical and management articles, self help and philosophical musings and creative non-fiction pieces in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
Do have a look at Vikram Karve’s creative writing blog at: http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com and his Professional Profile at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

1. How did the idea for the book come about?

I love good food. I love walking. So I love going on long walks exploring, searching for authentic food wherever I go. I got the idea for writing about food while “food-walking” on the streets of Mumbai a few years ago.

2. When do you think you really became passionate about food? Or better yet, when do you think you realized it?
I knew I was passionate about food when I realized that most of the time I was thinking about good food – this happened when I was in college.

3. Tell us why readers will enjoy ‘ Appetite for a Stroll‘?
Appetite for a Stroll is a unique book of foodie adventures breathtaking in its simplicity which surely has something for you – you’ll discover authentic eateries you’ve never been to before, it’s got recipes you’ve never read before, tips on the art of eating, a delicious journey which you can easily identify with, especially if you are a foodie or a wanderlust person.

4. What’s your favorite recipe from the book?
“ ¾, 1, 1 ½ ” – MY TIME TESTED BAKE A CAKE FORMULA

5. Do you cook yourself?
Yes, I love cooking as much as I love eating.

6. What was the first dish that you were really proud of?
The first dish I was proud of was CHICKEN DO PIAZA which I improvised during an impromptu dinner for friends who suddenly landed up with a broiler chicken and asked me to cook it for them.

7. What sets you apart from other food writers?
I am a genuine simple earthy trencherman, an ardent foodie, who honestly believes in the maxim “There is no love greater than the love of food”.

8. Could you share a favorite recipe?

Of course I’d love to share my favorite recipe… It’s called EGGS VODKA and a KISS…a story and a recipe…do read it in Appetite for a Stroll on page 117.

9. Do you have any future writing plans?
Yes. I plan to become a full time writer soon. I am planning a novel (on which I am already working) and book for children and dog lovers. Maybe I will write a book on “Teaching Stories” and Wisdom and Philosophy through Humor. I also want to publish an anthology featuring a collection of my short stories written by me over the past 20 years in various magazines and in my creative writing blog and another anthology of my philosophical musings and self help articles. I will continue to write short stories, philosophical musings, food and travel writing and self help articles and continue to blog actively.

10. How was it working with CinnamonTeal Publishing?
Appetite for a Stroll is a well designed and attractively packaged book which makes an easy read and has been liked by readers. The quality of publishing is really good. I wish the book had been advertised, publicized, and marketed well and displayed in prominent bookstores and bookstalls at airports and railway stations and was easily available to readers. Appetite for a Stroll is only available online. Most readers prefer to browse and buy books in bookstores or bookstalls rather than online.

(Readers may note that CinnamonTeal has since begun offering marketing packages, for more details contact shulen @ dogearsetc.com)

My romance with crime fiction started way back during my childhood. Thanks to Enid Blyton. Holidays, especially summer holidays meant trekking to the nearest library. The library close to my home in Malleswaram, Bengalooru, was actually a hole in the wall. It was a 10 feet by 15 feet window-less shop. Books were piled and strewn around in an organized way. The man who ran the shop had a constant sleepy expression. There was no way one could stroll around the shop and pick up a book they wanted. We had to stand near the entrance of the shop and tell him the book title. And he would find the book within a jiffy. How he did it …I have no clue. And so, it would be some Famous Five or Secret Seven for me, a James Hadley Chase for my Dad, a Sharat Chandra for my Grandmom, a Jane Austen for my mom and a Tintin for my sister. The books would be retrieved from dark, secret corners, dusted against his trousers and handed over. As far as I remember, there was no return date stamped. My dad would give ten rupees once in a month or once in two months, depending on the number of visits.

From Famous Five, my friends and I slowly graduated to Agatha Christie. Then came the wave of American teen detective fiction – Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. By then, someone had stealthily smuggled their dad’s copy of Forsyth’s Day of The Jackal. The book made rounds – and there were hushed reviews. Why were we wasting time reading ‘crap’ like Nancy Drew? More dads had their book shelves raided. There was someone called Robert Ludlum. Someone called Sidney Sheldon. Someone called Robin Cook. They all wrote ‘mind-blowing’ thrillers.

Decades later, as life has pecked away at much of our creativity thanks to mind-numbing corporate culture, my friends and I somehow managed to retain this single-most passion for crime thrillers. (The latest doing the rounds is of course Stieg Larsson.)

But time and again, I have been puzzled to find that for a country that laps up crime fiction, we don’t have a single internationally successfully author in the crime genre. Another strange fact, crime fiction is very much alive and kicking in regional languages. It is only now that English translations of these are furiously underway (ref: http://www.mid-day.com/specials/2010/may/020510-crime-fiction-agatha-christie-novels-tv-shows.htm). In fact, the leader in crime genre in Asia is Japan apparently! I found this interesting insight from an article in the Guardian. The only Indian author who got a mention is Vikram Chandra for Sacred Games. Check out http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/aug/27/top10s.asian.crime

I can only guess the reasons behind this fact –
1) Thanks to the Booker success (Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, Aravind Adiga), more and more authors like to follow their footsteps and write similar literature.

2) Thanks to the success of Chetan Bhagat (and I am talking about Five Point Someone), we have a sudden flurry of activity from the ‘intellectual’ class. Management grads, investment bankers, IT consultants are all pounding away on the keyboard writing slim volumes on relationships in modern India.

3) Perhaps the lack of a sophisticated and glamorous law enforcement infrastructure – like the FBI and Scotland Yard in India is another factor. In most of the international crime thrillers the crime detection is as interesting as the crime itself. Authors like Patricia Cornwell have literally built up the CSI legend in USA with her detailed forensic analysis interwoven in her stories. Not that is impossible in an Indian setting. But it would require a detailed, ground-up research into the working of our police force. Going by the books that are getting published as we speak, it looks like no author has the time, or the inclination to put in such effort.

4) Perhaps there are good manuscripts, but they are rejected – the publishers rather put money in a proven genre than try out a new one
All said and done, the Indian publishing scene shows a lot of promise – at least on the author’s front. We have a whole generation of well-travelled, well-read authors, who are unafraid to pen their thoughts. On the other hand, I don’t see the publishing end keeping up with this talent pool. There is no innovation, no creativity to encourage new genres or market good authors internationally. I guess that’s the reason why more and more Indian authors who write on offbeat subjects go through the self-publishing route, or seek out agents abroad.

If you have written a crime thriller, I would really love to hear about your experience with agents/publishers in India!

U. A. Kiran was born in Cannanore in Kerala, India. From Kerala, he came to Howrah in West Bengal to learn Bengali, Hindi and finally English which became the medium of expression and the language of his creativity.
Having completed his Diploma in Management in West Bengal he worked in Andhra Pradesh for some time. It was not until late that the writing bug bit him. Currently he resides in Goa.
The author likes writing poems, stories, novelettes/novels, dialogues/dramas, chalk-shaping, making puzzles. He has a passion for instrumental music and loves travelling.
U. A. Kiran is the author of The Alpha and The Omega and Other Stories and Beginner’s English Grammar.
1) Can you tell us what your latest book, Lost Smiles, is all about?
In the book ‘Lost Smiles’, I have brought together various natures, relationships and moods of people around us and the usual and unusual situations in human life.
‘My Tummy’ and ‘My Figure, My Problem’ would tickle your funny bones till the end. Some stories, like ‘Fear of Defeat’ and Beauty at the Window’, have the pinch of suspense which you would find enjoyable. ‘The Wood’ and The Last Train’ would terrify you, while romantic airs are spread all over ‘The First Kiss’ and The Casket’. Sometimes, you would feel whether such an incident could really happen. While writing this book, I have kept in mind to entertain the reader with plenty of imaginable and unimaginable characters and their affairs.
2) What inspired the stories behind Lost Smiles?
I’m a keen observer and like to write about things that I think need remembering—things that stimulate an emotional response; be it suspense, fear, pleasure. So it was obvious that Lost Smiles was inspired by the characters around me.
3) When did you first see yourself as a writer?
In my childhood, I was an ardent story-teller and gradually attempted to write in my teenage days. I was drawn towards fiction novels as they offer an endless chance to explore and experiment, without anyone imposing limitations. In the later years this passion for fiction pushed me to do what I like doing the best, i.e. WRITING…
4) Tell us why readers will enjoy your new release.
Each character in the book has a different story to tell. And since the characters in the book are inspired by the people around me it would make for enjoyable reading for the readers. Besides, the human emotions that pop up every time you turn the page will keep the reader engrossed every time he flips a page.
U. A. Kiran’s latest book, ‘Lost Smiles’, published by CinnamonTeal Publishing, can be found on

One question that is often asked by authors contacting us is that related to the cost of publishing. I have attempted to answer that question here although it is nearly impossible to give an exact figure considering the fact that almost every book is unique in some aspects. What follows is an approximation.
Please note: These are approximate costs charged by CinnamonTeal Publishing. Rates at other publishers/printing houses may vary. Rates will also vary depending on the specifications of the book you choose to publish.
a. Editing: Assuming you are done writing, the first step would be to have the book edited. In fact, at CinnamonTeal, we insist on one round of editing. This service costs Rs. 85 per A4 page (13 Garamond with 1″ margins) for copy editing and proof reading, Rs. 65 per A4 page for proof reading alone and Rs. 125 per A4 page for substantive editing. Assuming a manuscript of 35,000 words and 350 words to an A4 page, having the book edited and proof read will cost Rs. 8,500.
b. Cover Design: The service costs you Rs. 5000/-. You get three unique covers to choose from and three iterations to improve the cover you have chosen.
Total Cost so far: Rs. 13,500
c. Interior Page Design: The service costs Rs. 20 per page for text-only pages. The above word count translates roughly into 150 pages of A5 dimensions (i.e 5.83″x8.27″). Interior page design will therefore cost Rs. 3000/-
Total Cost so far: Rs. 16,500
d. Printing: A single copy of the book, having specifications mentioned as before and with only black and white pages, with perfect binding will cost Rs. 157.50. For the sake of this article, assuming 50 books are printed, the cost of printing totals Rs. 7,875
Total Cost so far: 24,375
e. ISBN: While the ISBN and the associated barcode is provided for free, government regulations require that a copy of the book be deposited at each of the four national libraries. The cost of four copies totals Rs. 630 while postage and paperwork costs Rs. 300. Hence the cost of printing and sending these books totals Rs. 930.
Total Cost so far: Rs. 25,305
f. That’s pretty much it. There are no setup costs, no fulfillment costs (except the cost of printing the book and postage) and no “manuscript changing cost”. One might decide to have a website designed and we charge Rs. 5000 for that service. 
So we are still talking about a total cost of Rs. 30,305.
Roughly translates into US $ 700.00
You might also consider the cost of the time you will spend marketing your book and tracking your sales. While the amount mentioned above is definitely not a small one, it is an investment in yourself. The time and effort you have put in while writing your book and fine-tuning it is definitely the single-largest investment you have made. This later investment just sustains it.
Note: If you choose the “do-it-yourself” route, you could save on most of these costs. The only cost you’d have to bear is that of printing. Assuming you choose to print 50 copies, that cost would amount to Rs. 7875. Roughly $180.00

Grammar Nazis and the Zen Grammarian
Towards the fag end of the second World War, a rumour was running through the Allied countries, characterized by this paragraph from Time Magazine:
But what of the top Nazis who cannot hide? With a compact army of young SS and Hitler Youth fanatics, they will retreat, behind a loyal rearguard cover of Volksgrenadiere and Volksstürmer, to the Alpine massif which reaches from southern Bavaria across western Austria to northern Italy. There immense stores of food and munitions are being laid down in prepared fortifications. If the retreat is a success, such an army might hold out for years.”
This Alpenfestung, or Alpine Fortress, was mostly a fantasy; the Nazis of Germany would stand routed with only a few big names making it out alive. But a different group, the Grammar Nazis, have set up a formidable array of such redoubts, in the form of propah professors, competitive entrance exams and meticulous editors. It is the last that concerns this article. Every editor, particularly a fiction editor, has a choice whether to be a Grammar Nazi or not.
The association with the Nazis may come across as offensive, but it isn’t really intended to be, and isn’t really offensive in the world-at-large. There are some things that it is socially commendable to be a Nazi about, like not spitting on the road, or not travelling ticketless on a Mumbai local, or even vegetarianism. Even though ‘Grammar Nazi’ is used by the layman to mock the average pedant who pipes up to correct your syntax in class, I know that there are many who take an evident pride in the label.
I know because I was once a junior, card-carrying member of the Grammar Nazis.
The idea has a certain classical appeal. What Grammar Nazis are looking to build is an ineffaceable edifice, a monument that enduringly presides over the language, rewards its devotees and chides the deviants and the offenders. There is peace in stillness, safety in the solidity of the framework. In general, one of man’s pet bugbears is uncertainty; it takes special training to be able to tolerate uncertainty. Forget about accepting it.
Their arguments are strong as well. If language is to be used for communication, doesn’t it make sense to have a stable framework that everyone can understand? More importantly, long years of associations have lent certain shades of meaning to the “correct” terms and phrases. Won’t these be lost if you loosen the framework, lower the drawbridge and let the ignorant and unscrupulous masses storm the Grammar fortress?
There is one more thing that I would like to say about Grammar Nazis: their assurance is infectious. There is an immediate feeling of respect when you hear a man confidently assert his views, there is an automatic charm in a man who knows what he’s talking about. One of my favourite Grammar Nazis, Henry Watson Fowler, addresses the issue of the stasis of language by introducing two terms, Idiom and Analogy. Idiom is the linguistic convention, the way things are done in language, while analogy is the attempt by people (both who are aware and unaware of the convention and the rationale behind it) to experiment with language.
Here is a passage from Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 2 e. (1965), delightfully and idiosyncratically titled ‘The Cast-Iron Idiom’ (my paragraphing and pruning to the permitted 250 words):
cast-iron idiom.
Between IDIOM and ANALOGY a secular conflict is waged. Idiom is conservative, standing in the ancient ways, insisting that its property is sacrosanct, permitting no jot or tittle of alteration in the shape of its phrases. Analogy is progressive, bent on extending liberty, demanding better reasons than use and wont for respecting the established, maintaining that the matter is what matters and the form can go hang.
Analogy perpetually wins, is forever successful in recasting some piece of the cast iron, and for that reason no article in this book is likely to be sooner out of date in some of its examples than this. Idiom as perpetually renews the fight, and turns to defend some other object of assault. ‘I doubt that it ever happened’, ‘He is regarded an honest man’,… —all these, says Idiom, are outrages on English; correct them please to ‘ I doubt whether it ever happened’, ‘He is regarded as an honest man’…
But why? retorts Analogy. Is not to doubt to be unconvinced? Is not regarding considering? …Away with such hair-splittings and pedantries! …I propose to neglect your petty regulations…
Not that Analogy, and those whom it influences, are offenders so deliberate and conscious as this description of them might seem to imply ; they treat regard like consider not because they choose to flout the difference that Idiom observes, but because it comes natural to them to disregard distinctions that they have not noticed.”
Note the absolutely wicked pardon proffered by St. Fowler: “not because they choose to flout the difference that Idiom observes, but because it comes natural to them to disregard distinctions that they have not noticed”. That kind of eloquence is rarely possible in a more permissive framework; the grand authoritarian rhetoric gives it its power.
Wherein lies the rub?
The very arguments that Grammar Nazis use turn against them once one views the matter of language from a slightly different angle. This is the small matter of the gap between an existing system and man’s capacity to describe, order and govern that system.
An example is the ecosystem: we may study it and classify it, but can we really order it or control it? Can we declare what exists as ‘incorrect’? Can we, for instance, dismiss the duck-billed platypus as an error in biology? No; we must make room, we must create a new box for it or admit our ignorance.
Language, though it seems to be in our control because it is the currency of our own species, and does not carry biological inevitability, is as much of an ecosystem. And this is because of an important hierarchy that Grammar Nazis ignore: the authority of spoken language over written language.
Written language comes second to spoken language, for written language begins by being primarily a record of spoken language, a hierarchy dominated by the order of human development, starting with speech and followed by writing. And speech is free and situational, and grammar can go take a hike when someone speaks under the influence of passion, of anger, of fear.
Besides, the number of people who have the desire to communicate far exceeds the number of people who are interested in memorizing the conventions of a language.
I have now come to look upon conventions of language, and some conventions of grammar, as not laws but etiquette: and I have a healthy contempt for etiquette as a rigid code of conduct. Etiquette for me is not about specific, high-brow, snooty knowledge, but about grace, the true marker of distinction and class; if etiquette makes one of my guests uncomfortable, it isn’t etiquette, it is a barrier. Similarly, if my Grammar Fascism makes the person speaking to me uncomfortable, I am creating a greater block to communication than his own ignorance.
Language is flux: to impose stasis on it is not only futile, but also arrogant. Static grammar is both comfortable and limited, but our experience of the world is both ever changing and unlimited, and therefore language will always find ways to break out of its own straitjackets. Communities will be reared on “I ain’t going nowhere notime soon”, and, less anomalously, will say “It’s me” and not the pompous but oh-so-correct “It is I”, and there’s very little the small circle of Grammar Nazis can do about it.
There is another deep failing of Grammar Nazis: they lack consensus. Different grammar handbooks will give you different ironclad rules. What one Grammar Nazi will consider excessive and do away with, another will consider mandatory.
The question becomes more fraught when discussing fiction. Two categories of ideas are at work here. One is the right to use non-standard dialects in fiction, often used to assert individuality in the constellation of fiction written in English. Mark Twain’s use of a dialect in both the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn is an important example. The modern poet John Agard exemplifies the creative use of non-standard dialect to make a political statement in his famous poem ‘Half­­-Caste’:
Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas/
explain yuself
wha u mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather/
well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass
ah rass/
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
The other tendency is more aesthetic, an attempt to play with language for either rhetorical effect (“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”) or to convey interior mental states (James Ellroy in White Jazz: “Fever-that time burning. I want to go with the music-spin, fall with it.”) or as a formalist device (Finnegan’s Wake famously begins “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” and ends “A way a lone a last a loved a long the”, leaving the book without either a beginning or an end).
How should an editor, particularly a former Grammar Nazi, deal with fiction editing? What can be the aesthetic value of a looser framework of grammar, to compare with the charming assurance, sense of order and clarity championed by the Grammar Nazis?
For that, I will introduce the other half of my title: say hello to the Zen Grammarian. The Zen Grammarian has a particular perspective towards the world; she knows its mutability, and is not militantly attached to anything. She has great love for what she values, but she recognizes that as her preoccupation, as her passion, and does not demand it of anybody else. Nor does she react in horror or despair at its passing. If people will spell definitely as definately, or will say “She is taller than me”, she will be mindful of the situation and only correct them where absolutely necessary.
The Zen Grammarian knows what is important: communication and a level of comfort between those communicating, and she sees language as a tool facilitating that communication. She knows that there is nothing to be arrogant about, and that the richness of the varied uses of language can provide both delight and insight, not to mention the playfulness in tinkering with language.
The Zen Grammarian will therefore nitpick less, listen more, and give a writer the benefit of the doubt.
PS: Readers in the know will recognize that what I have described is an old debate, that between Prescriptive and Descriptive grammar, where the former tries to frame the rules and the latter tries to describe the way language is used in the world, and derive its laws from that usage. Cambridge Grammarians have done some admirable work in descriptive grammar recently, though their conviction is sometimes faintly offensive; the Student’s Introduction to English Grammar by Huddleston and Pullum is a great starting point for those interested in exploring descriptive grammar.

The definition of a book might soon change.

While we are all used to it’s current definition as “a written work or composition that has been published (printed on pages bound together)”, advances in technology and increasing expectations from readers may converge to ensure that that definition no longer holds or, at best, is only partially true.

There’s no denying that customers want to be in charge and have a say in all interactions they are a part of. One-way communication is just too passe. They want their foods tweaked a little, decide which channels to watch on TV, even decide who wins the next edition of American Idol. It’d be pretty dumb to assume, therefore, that they would be content reading a book without a part to play.

So imagine a situation where Snow White is warned that the apple may contain some poison. Or one where Thomas Friedman is grilled on his notions of a Flat World. All while reading the book.

Technology may just make that possible. Discussions are already happening through instant messaging and other collaborative software. With the emergence of the broadband and improvements in content delivery, it won’t be too far away when the book is not just a static collection of words and pages but a dynamic discussion forum. Real time collaboration may make it possible for authors and readers to communicate and offer stories, plots and explanations tailored for the reader. If the book is indeed a source of knowledge, then such an incarnation of the book might indeed allow people to communicate and collaborate and put their minds together in the pursuit of knowledge. Ideas can be debated and discussed threadbare. Nuances can be emphasized.

Interactivity will be key. The book will indeed be a social lubricant.

Any thoughts?

There is much debate on whether the printed book will survive the onslaught of its electronic counterpart. With newer devices being produced almost everyday that make e-books easy to access, it seems like e-books are here to stay. While many publishers are apprehensive of the impact of e-books on their business models, it will be, nonetheless, interesting to see how things pan out here in India.

Even today, many Indian villages remain inaccessible because of the poor quality of roads and last mile delivery of goods remains a huge challenge. Primarily because of this, and because literacy levels associated with the rural hinterland are considered abysmal, books hardly make it to the villages in the numbers that it should. This means that those who actually want a good book to read cannot get one. The Government has made a feeble attempt to introduce libraries but barring that and a few mobile libraries that are introduced by well-meaning individuals, finding a good book to read is long shot off.

It is in this context that the impact of e-books must be examined. Mobile connections cover almost half of the country’s population and a huge perecentage of the rural populace. The average screen size of the mobile has also increased. That means books, if transmitted electronically, can be easily downloaded and conveniently read. In order to cater to the needs of the vernacular market, innovations will be important. Important strides are already being taken in this direction although more work is needed.

At an important time such as this, the correct steps must be taken. It is important to realise that this need not be a zero-sum game and that e-books and printed books can co-exist. In fact it has been proposed that e-books might actually prop up the demand for the printed versions. Careful thought must be therefore applied before publishers yield to the temptation of enforcing DRM rights and other such controls on the sale and dissemination of e-books.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you think the e-book wave will play itself out in India? Or is it too early to speculate? Are e-books going to change the way publishing is perceived and books delivered? Your comments are invited.