Academic publishing must change quickly in response to the pandemic. It has the means to do it

Making predictions of any sort during a pandemic seems foolhardy. Predictions are especially fraught in Indian publishing, where every trend is likely to have an opposing, equally credible trend. More plausible in such circumstances is to focus on what is – ie, both what is unfolding before us and what preceded it in the Indian publishing landscape. How these two factors blend and mix with the post-Covid-19 realities and how they reconfigure Indian publishing’s key pillars will be for all of us to experience on the other side of pandemic.

The lie of the land

Indian publishing, which will celebrate 75 years in 2022, has a close and symbiotic relationship with the educational system in India. Some 95% of the industry directly caters to schools, colleges, universities and research – including technical, medical, and professional education. The remaining five percent forms what we call general or trade publishing, the segment that garners eyeballs with its bestselling books, high advances, and celebrity authors.

The largest segment within education publishing is K to 12, or school books, which account for about two-thirds. The rest is occupied by higher education, and a small specialist research segment where several international publishers operate. India is the second-largest English language publishing market…

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