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Reading habit is alive


DAVID DAVIDAR, 43, CEO of Penguin India, was recently here in Kochi to release the paperback edition of his novel, `The House of Blue Mangoes'. He was here after a period of 30 years. His connection with Kerala is that he had spent 10 years of his childhood on a Tea Estate in Peermade. His father, Eddie Davidar, was with Southern India Tea Estates (then a British company) now known as the Hope Plantations. David Davidar speaks about the publishing scene to The Hindu Metro Plus in an exclusive interview.

Have critics given you favourable reviews because you are a publisher?

You mean (because) of who I am?! I don't think so. I am not known in the US, UK or Australia and I have got favourable reviews in these places.

What exactly do you look for when you read a manuscript?

I look for strong characters, great language, a plausible and a gripping storyline. The best books are that which combine fiction and fact perfectly.

What is considered - the literary or the commercial merit of a book?

The perfect book is that which can combine both the literary and commercial aspects. At present Indian writing in English is a genre by itself, for example Shobha De, Khushwant Singh. But in another 10 to 15 years there will be overtly commercial books like romance, detective stories written by Indian authors in the market.

Has the reading population diminished? Has T.V. made inroads into book reading habits? Our book business is growing at the rate of 20 per cent per annum. I would like to look at how they have handled themselves in the US. They have much more entertainment offers but there is so much of book business there. I don't know if people are reading but as long as someone is buying - I will take any sales.

William Dalrymple with his `White Mughals' has switched over from HarperCollins to Penguin India. How did you lure him?

At Penguin India we took 15 years to build a company and I am very proud of the team of great editors, sales people, training people etc. I like to believe that Willy, Vikram, Arundhati don't want to worry about the publishing part so they come to us. They think their job is writing, not publishing.

What made Khushwant Singh take eight of his books to HarperCollins?

Khushwant Singh has written 90 books and we are publishing some of his greatest fictions like `Delhi,' `Company Of Women' etc. I think they are talking about his collection of columns.

Don't you think these book- reading sessions by the author is invading the privacy of the reader - telling us how to interpret things?

Book reading is very new in India but elsewhere it is an old practice. I agree a book is a private communion between the reader and the writer. It is a very fine balance that one has to draw here. This is a time- tested way of promoting a book by getting the author to interact with the readers. Today the writer has to go around. The rest of the 9,400 writers get no publicity. I have been treated very well by all my publishers, I couldn't have asked for more.

MI

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