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‘Ekushey Boi Mela has become the most important event for many publishers’

  • Published at 11:38 am February 4th, 2018
  • Last updated at 11:54 am February 4th, 2018
‘Ekushey Boi Mela has become the most important event for many publishers’
In its nearly forty five-year journey, University Press Limited has carved out a niche for itself in a market where most publishers do not care much about publication ethics. In this interview, Mahrukh Mohiuddin, director of Operations of Business Development at UPL, talks about Ekushey Boi Mela and different aspects of the book publication industry. UPL appears in the Ekushey Boi Mela with a number of quality books every year. What are the most highlighted books this year? This year, one of the most highlighted books from UPL is going to be Ekti Jatir Jonmo: Jouno Shohingshota o Daymukti, edited by Hameeda Hossain, Amena Mohsin and Selina Hossain for the Bangla edition. It is a result of collaboration with Ain O Salish Kendra and Zubaan Books. We are also very much excited about a cookbook by Ms Sayka Amin titled Rojkar Ranna. Apart from these, we will also showcase two memoirs featuring 1947 partition titled Church Bells and Darjeeling Tea, by Zeena Choudhury, and Under the Same Sky by Perveen Ahmed. Poran the Postman, by Sharada Kolluru, Saiq'a Chowdhury and Sabyashachi Mistry is our new publication in the children's book category. Ever since its inception in 1975, UPL has established international standard in terms of editing, proofreading and payment of royalties. How do you maintain such high standards? Does it increase production costs? UPL considers royalties to be the most fundamental element of a book's revenue sharing and an inherent right of the author or content generator. It has little relevance with the production cost. Rather, it is the part of the earning from the book that any responsible publisher should set aside for their authors based on the contract they agree on. As for maintaining quality in terms of editing and proofreading, these costs have increased over the decades and the skills are also difficult to match with the kind of projects we take up for publishing. We strive for the standards we are known for, but it is often challenging to attain with the market realities in which we operate. Many books in the Ekushey Boi Mela under the category of fiction are marked by numerous errors. Even books by many renowned publishers are not free from these mistakes. This is a serious disservice done to readers, especially to young readers. Do you think intervention from an authority is necessary to check such publishing malpractices? This is indeed a serious and practical concern not only for publishers, but also for the reading community in general. I am not sure if an intervening authority is necessary in this regard, but some form of quality control mechanism needs to be in place for readers to know which are better books, or should be regarded as books at all. There can be an independent body of literary and scholarly reviewers, under the aegis of Bangla Academy, who can offer the quality control scrutiny for events such as the Ekushey Boi Mela. But it is also important to be aware that such "interventions" do not turn into instruments of censoring freedom of expression. Tell us something about the potential of the Ekushey Boi Mela. Many in the industry believe that without it our publishing houses would not have survived. Due to the existing market realities, Ekushey Boi Mela has become the most important event for many publishers. This is the only time when we get to interact with readers directly. Throughout the year, we have to operate via booksellers, distributors and other channels. So, yes, this event has secured great potential and it also draws attention to the fact that more events of smaller scales may be organised throughout the year. It is the responsibility of the publishers to be conscious of the fact that quality of books must not suffer due to the overemphasis on one annual event. Lately there have been talks about some foreign multinational companies trying to enter the local market of Bangladesh. If they do, many fear that sales will fall in an already struggling market.  What is your take on this? If we are confident about our capability to publish and disseminate good quality creative and academic works, I think there is no reason to be skeptical or worried about such possibilities. Instead, we should consider this as an opportunity to thrive for a more vibrant market. In my personal opinion, entry of international players can actually open up doors for a healthy competition, which can turn out to be beneficial for the publishing industry in general and of course for our readers. Multi-national publishers also need to recognise the contribution of local publishers in grooming and cultivating authors and content creators and enter into mutually beneficial deals for international dissemination of creative contents from Bangladesh.
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