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Cambridge comes to city

Peter Davison, Director, Asia Branch, Cambridge University Press expresses his views on publishing concerns of CUP.


THE OLDEST printing and publishing house in the world - the Cambridge University Press now opens a publishing division in Hyderabad, along with the opening of the sixth branch of Foundation Books in India. Down centuries, CUP has published scholars, including Henry Moore, Milton, Newton and Einstein, to Stephen Hawking, Weinberg and others. In the realm of philosophy, thought and social sciences, the CUP has published works of Bertrand Russell, Skinner, the Allchins, Metcalf, Hobsbawm and Noam Chomsky, among several others of repute. The university press has so far, published around 2,500 books and 150 journals.

Coinciding with the launch of the CUP office at Hyderguda, Prof. M.L. Tickoo (of CIEFL) released the south Asian edition of the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary on June 20. The dictionary is a compilation of around 170,000 words, phrases and examples with over 10,000 idioms and highlighted phrasal verbs.

Peter Davison, the Director, Asia Branch, CUP, who was present at the inaugural, shared some of his thoughts on the publishing concerns of the CUP.

How has the market been for the CUP?

The good news is that it is growing prosperously. The major areas of growth have been in `developing' markets, - India and China, in particular.

Ten years ago, one found it virtually impossible to sell books on teaching English language in India, largely because there was widespread satisfaction with level of English taught through the primary and other compulsory education centres. I think as India's economy and education system have internationalised in the last 10 years, the levels of satisfaction with English delivered through that system have declined.

While our market is growing in India, it is also becoming similar to that in the rest of the world. In the context of Hyderabad, clearly the growth of hi-tech industries has been the determining factor for anybody in the educational and scholarly publishing industry over the last few years. The growth of international or internationally oriented education seems to be having a significant impact on business here.

Is the CUP here only going to cater to the realm of English language teaching as a discipline?

Students have very specific learning needs. By and large, those are addressed. Educators in India follow similar lines of enquiry as those in the rest of the world. We do, however, find in traditional Indian higher education that learning English in universities is about learning Wordsworth and Shakespeare. But it is not realistic that majority of the young who go through university education system should be educated on a diet of Wordsworth and Shakespeare and still less Chaucer. There is a divergence of views of older academics and a younger perhaps more pragmatic generation of university teachers who recognise that they are educating young technologists, bio-technologists, politicians and educators to use English and do something with it.

We are accepting that society requires these skills. It is basic common sense. By far, the largest part of our publishing in English Language teaching is directed at these young adults who are finishing compulsory education and entering the working world. I certainly think the idea of publishing we are engaging in, is consistent with the approach of the younger university teachers in India.

Has globalisation and opening of the world markets somewhere affected publishing concerns of CUP - especially in the field of social sciences?



WIDER REACH: Peter Davison feels demand for books teaching English has increased.

I think it has affected our social sciences publishing only to a limited extent. The way in which it has affected is that higher learning and education in English is more widely available now.

When I joined CUP the world largely consisted of Western Europe, the US and Japan. The whole of rest of Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa were virtually irrelevant where international trade in publishing was concerned. Today, Taiwan and Korea are among the top ten markets in the world today, so are Mexico and Brazil. We were scarcely trading with these 15 years ago. Globalisation has affected our business, and the kind of publishing we engaged in.

Is there any pressure - from the world market - on CUP to publish only certain kind of books?

Yes, we are under pressure to respond in that way to what people want to read and buy. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It would be terribly sad if we sat in our academic ivory towers and said we publish philosophy and mathematics, and not film studies and sociology. It may be just a question of keeping updated about what people want to study. There has been and will continue to be enormous growth in applied social sciences and applied sciences, jurisprudence, Criminology or law in general. Business studies weren't a discipline 20 years ago in the University of Cambridge but today the university has a massive business school and that reflects a repositioning of discipline across the world. If an academic publisher fails to respond to that then the academic publisher risks irrelevance.

Has the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary included culturally specific words that have come to be part of the English language today?

With the growth in computer aided tools for construction of dictionaries, one is more dependent on technology-rich information from rich societies, such as US, UK and Australia for one's data than on countries that don't systematically collect their language data so well.

In constructing a major learners' dictionary we have access to hundred and millions of data produced in the US or UK, and it is extremely difficult to gather language data from India. It is far better in seeing difficulties in usage, grammar, of words than picking up specific words in Indian English. You don't need to explain students anywhere in the world what is a `goonda' - the only place they may find it used, is in the Indian newspaper report!

There is the notion that CUP has published more works of authors from the first rather than the third world.

As a generalisation it is probably fair. Yes, the single largest community of authors on a national basis that we draw from is in the US. And the second largest is in the UK. Poor countries generally rank much lower down. That is not necessarily because we are not open to the idea of researchers in those countries. If you look at certain disciplines, everybody would accept that most of the decent research is in the US. I think it is fair to say we have been quite selective.

How do you conceive the work of Hyderabad office?

The principle function of our existing offices in India is to sell books and journals published from Cambridge and from North America. This is the first office not only in India but in Asia where half the personnel are devoted to finding and developing books. This is our first office that has an equal share in terms of its function in selling books, developing materials locally and publishing.

We have taken some staff from CIEFL and we will hope to use the research expertise and availability of many qualified people in the city involved in English teaching to develop materials for us. Having this office will also in time allow us to tap into the hi-tech author community in central and southern India.

It is more likely this office will be the organisational help for visiting science and technology editors from US and UK, to tap into the author community here.

R. UMA MAHESHWARI

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