The Decade in Literature

Via livemint.com

The book business encompasses three universes that overlap substantially but have distinct identities and histories. These are: publishing (the book as a physical object, the mechanics of book editing, design and printing, the size of the market and the quality and diversity of the publishing houses within it), book selling (the bookshop as a site for browsing and buying, and as a cultural space, the distribution networks of publishers, book launches and other publicity methods), and, less tangible than the other two, but the thread running through it all—the idea of literature, of a reading culture.

We might think of this decade as one in which Indian literature went forward and expanded outward at the same time, bringing into its embrace many of the literary riches of its past and present that were hitherto restricted to specialists or speakers of a particular regional language.

The birth of many new publishing houses and imprints in the last decade, the explosion in the number of books published, the increase in the number of bookshops (particularly the big chains such as Crossword, Landmark and Odyssey), and the growth of the online book trade all point to one thing. The book business is growing rapidly.

Online book selling, almost negligible in 2000, now accounts for about Rs100 crore worth of business every year, divided up between players such as Flipkart (where I do most of my shopping), Rediff and Indiaplaza.

Indian literature itself occupies a much larger place in world literary consciousness than it did at the beginning of the decade, with a small raft of big Indian names giving way to a whole schooner of exciting voices. Indian novels in English no longer exhibit the self-consciousness of most earlier works in the language, and good new novels appear now not in their ones and twos, but at the rate of a couple of dozen a year.

Another pointer to the maturation of Indian literature in English this decade was the emergence of genre fiction of various kinds, from thrillers to chicklit to campus novels to pulp fiction in translation, thereby opening out the market for Indian fiction dramatically and bringing in readers hitherto deterred by or unsympathetic to novels.

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Image Source : Kirk Siang


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