Amartya Sen on India’s Relationship With Books
Sen talked about India’s long and proud history of books and publishing, about the early development of printing in the seventh and ninth centuries – when, even then, there were concerns about “the barriers of technology and distribution” – and about what India had given to the world, including much of the language of trigonometry. Today, the barriers are social and economic, and Sen talked about the need for an expansion of elementary school education. With more of the country’s vast population educationally enfranchised, many more browsers would become book buyers, whether of books in English or in any of India’s 23 languages. As to newspapers, at a time when many in the west are taking their daily serving of news online, in India – despite the fact that the affluent are as techie as those in London or New York – newspaper sales are on the increase. Explained Sen, India’s is “a newspaper culture” and news print is “perversely important” for a population that needs to satisfy its curiosity with a daily fix of news.
Asked by a journalist how he felt about the increasing dominance of the English language, Sen replied that it was important to distinguish between the upsides and the downsides of colonial rule. Global language and local identity can happily co-exist, he suggested.
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