Session 5: The Impact of Alternative Publishing

The panel discussion on ‘The Impact of Alternate Publishing’ was chaired by renowned journalist and co-founder of the South-East Asia and Earthquake and Tsunami blog, Peter Griffin. The panelists for this session included Chetna, founder of Graffiti Publishing House, Maitreyi Kandoi, who publishes the magazine titled Kindle; Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones, The Director of the Mercator Institute for Media, Languages and Culture and also the publisher of an online magazine called ‘Transcript’; Vaishali Khandekar who publishes Reading Hour, a bimonthly, and Michael Bhaskar, Digital Publishing Director at ‘Profile Books.’

L-R: Chetna, Vaishali Khandekar, Elin Haf Gruffydd Jones, Michael Bhaskar, Maitreyi Kandoi, Peter Griffin

This session aimed to discuss the different forms of alternate publishing, their impact on traditional publishing and the challenges faced in this form of publishing. Traditional mediums like books and magazines have served the readers for decades. However, has the advent of e-books and blogging slowly decreased the practise of reading books?

Chetna initiated the conversation by stating that she favours the online medium of publishing over print because it is economically convenient for her. ‘There is a lot less investment in terms of money to start something online than something in print,’ she asserted. She also said that putting content together is far easier online and so it co-ordinating with parties like writers and designers. She also cautioned that people should not easily discount the geographical reach of online media. ‘Online medium works better than print medium because it’s a lot more convenient to start something, to get it going as well as to reach out to people,’ she said.

Elin Jones publishes an online magazine called ’Transcripts.’ The aim of this magazine is to enhance literary exchange among the smaller and substantial languages of Europe like Polish and Portuguese, for instance. They have collaborated with publishers, translators and others who are a part of the publishing chain in Turkey, Egypt as well as in India. She believes that ‘multi-lingualism is the key to international exchanges.’ One of the challenges that Elin faces with multi-lingual exchange is that very often it’s not possible for literary or creative translators to make a living out of various language combinations. Therefore, they have created a network of thirty to thirty-five -35 organisations that work together and have also organised translator workshops as a methodology to enhance literary exchange through translation.

Michael Bhaskar was of the opinion that alternate publishing refers to the different forms and formats of publishing. A publisher can be much more than a book or a magazine publisher. He states that the term publishing comes from a Latin word which means public. The very act of publishing means to make something available to the public. ‘People publish myriad apps, games, websites, and data bases and if we massively open up what we normally do, we’ll get whole new different areas,’ he said thus pointing to the fact that a publisher was now capable of many things.

‘Kindle’ is a three year old magazine started by Maitreyi Kandoi. According to her alternate publishing means alternate content and not necessarily alternate technology. This view was echoed by Vaishali Khanedkar who said that Reading Hour was conceptualized in order to fill a need she pereceived there was for reading material of good quality.

Peter Griffin made the discussion very light and interactive. In a departure from earlier formats, the panelists first discussed among themselves the various issues they had in mind before throwing the discussion open to the audience. During this interaction, a very interesting thought about the U.K market being dominated by Amazon and Kindle was put forth by Elin Jones, a point also supported by Michael Bhaskar. Elin further continued to state that the repercussion of this domination on small language communities were enormous. Michael Bhaskar ended by stating that the digital medium is fantastic opportunity but one should also be aware of the set of challenges that can be inhibited in the alternate or independent publishing.