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India set to be world's publishing hub

July 19, 2006 15:13 IST
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Nearly five centuries after King Henry VIII gave it the charter to go and sell books in his empire, the Cambridge University Press has set up shop in India.

India was not part of King Henry's empire in 1534, but the world's 'oldest continuous publishing house' has slightly altered his charter to fit the globalisation era.

"What King Henry meant was go and sell books in the English-speaking world and India is today part of this English-speaking world," says Stepehen Bourne, chief executive officer of Cambridge University Press.

The Press, which has published books every year since it printed its first book in 1584, acquired 51 per cent stake in the Delhi-based Foundation Books on Monday, to enter India to grab a share of its fast-growing market of 20,000 new titles a year.

It's not the huge number of English-speaking population alone that has attracted the Press, which presently outsources typesetting of whole of its books and 90 per cent of journals to companies in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Pondhicherry.

India's edge in software technology and low cost of publishing makes perfect business sense for the Press. If it can cut the cost of production by manufacturing books in India, Cambridge University Press titles will be travelling to the Arab world from Indian presses in the near future, something that could make King Henry turn in his grave.

"Books produced in India can be exported to other countries.

Asia, especially the Arab countries, and Africa could be the destinations," says Bourne. "We will be producing books specific for the Arab world." With a lot of its titles and journals online, the Press will also be drawing from the expertise of India's e-technology, he adds.

The Press also hopes to build an academic list in India for distribution around the world. The list will have the quality of the Cambridge University Press that has published Henry Moore, John Milton, Issac Newton and Amartya Sen, he insists.

The Press, whose annual revenue is about $250 million, currently brings out 2,500 titles a year, which would now become available in India with the Cambridge University Press India Private Ltd coming into existence.

"The Press books will sell now at the same rate but we are going to have a pricing review for India," says Bourne.

As the Cambridge University gets ready to celebrate the bicentenary of its famous alumnus Charles Darwin in 2009, Indians could even get more Press titles on him at cheaper rate.

India's notorious book pirates are not holding the Cambridge University Press back from going all the way in publishing in the country.

"We are not worried about piracy in India. By pricing the books at affordable prices, we will keep the people away from the pirates," says Bourne. Even King Henry would have approved of the confidence of the Press CEO.

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