Indian Publishing since Independence:
David Davidar in Conversation with GJV Prasad
Indian Publishing since Independence: by , , pp.,
July 2022, volume 46, No 7

Publishing in India has grown tremendously in the seventy-five years since Independence. Although accurate figures are hard to come by, it’s estimated that the Indian book market is the 6th largest in the world by value, and growing. Textbook publishing for schools accounts for the largest number of titles that are sold in the country, followed by the higher education segment, with the most visible part of the industry, trade publishing or books for general readers, coming third. English-language books constitute the largest segment of the book trade in India. When the nation achieved freedom in 1947, the market for trade books was dominated by imported titles, and indigenous publishing was almost non-existent. Although there were some notable attempts to start trade publishing houses, these were few and far between, and local publishing only came into its own a little over thirty years ago. Today, books by Indian authors, published in India, dominate the review pages and bestseller lists, and the country is no longer seen as primarily an export market for Western book publishers. In this wide-ranging interview, publisher and novelist David Davidar talks to writer, academic and literary critic, GJV Prasad, about books, writing, Indian literature and Indian trade publishingand how all these have evolved since 1947.

GJV Prasad: It’s such a pleasure to talk with you, and a pleasure to be doing this for The Book Review. The conversation is going to be about you and your wonderful career as a publisher. Most of us from the 1980s are acquainted with you as one playing a large part in Indian publishing. So, it would be good to start with the beginning of your career. I think you started off as a journalist.




David Davidar: I started my career in 1979 with Himmat in Bombay. Rajmohan Gandhi, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, hired me straight out of college. I was nineteen when I went for my interview with Rajmohan, whose journalism and courageous activism, especially during Mrs Gandhi’s Emergency, had made him the stuff of legend. I met him in Chennai, and I remember almost nothing about the interview, I was so nervous. I recall that it took place in a lovely bungalow in a compound thick with trees, and parrots the colour of mango leaves squawking in the branches, but the beauty of the surroundings didn’t register until much later; what mattered at the time was that I got the job. Himmat seemed to me a great place to begin what I hoped would be a longish stint in journalism as I was always dead keen on writing, and the magazine was good enough to get me started on writing pieces pretty quickly. Although I’d be a journalist for less than a decade, the lessons I learned at Himmat were invaluable. The magazine was fearless in the stance it took on many issues of public interest and it always fought for what was right, no matter how formidable the opposition ranged against it—that attitude and conviction rubbed off on all of us who worked there. More practically, I was taught how to write, edit, fact check and so on by its brilliant editor, Kalpana Sharma. There was also a great team I worked with, many of whom would go on to become renowned, award-winning journalists. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start my career.

GJV: How is it that you quit and went off to publishing? How did you take that decision?

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