Monday 1 September 2008

Publishing and cross media in Asia

Publishing in Asia is dominated by its traditional forms, magazines, newspapers and books. Scholarly publishing which is an important part of this context, fabric, or culture is not exactly missing in large countries like India but deficient. While newspapers and magazines are booming, scholarly publishing is languishing. While newspapers and magazines are growing in the non-English languages and scripts, scholarly and academic publishing in Indian languages is totally missing. In fact although India aspires to be known as a knowledge society and contains excellent science, engineering, and management institutions, its academic publishing culture is anaemic. The famous IIT's have not engendered a local publishing culture among their faculty and researchers, and instead publish in scientific and technical journals abroad. On the other hand, the Indian Institute of Management in Ahemedabad has seen publishing as an important function and activity right from the start. Notably, China and Japan are exceptions in Asia with a great number of scientific and research articles published in Chinese and Japanese.

The irony is that a great number of academic and scientific journals are typeset in India and these pages are exported over the Internet to publishers all over the world. STM (Science, Technology, and Math) typesetting is a huge industry. While the government did not allow publishing of foreign owned journals in the country until the beginning of this century, it is now possible for foreign publishers to have 100% ownership of scientific, engineering, technical and niche journals. The only restrictions are on news journals and magazines where foreign ownership is restricted to 26%.

In the last five years many international titles have begun publishing in the country but they are mostly niche products like Marie Claire, Vogue, or Geo. Popular Science is also being launched by one of the magazine publishing groups in the next couple of months.

Perhaps some of the English language technical and scientific journals that are under tremendous cost pressures in the West will think of publishing and fullfilment from India and other Asian countries. The Internet may give rise to scholarly publishing in Asian languages. This will have its own challenges as far as refereeing and the temptation of altering articles once published, but these can be surmounted if one sees the advantages that this medium has for what are expensive and low circulation products. It may even give rise to scholarly journals in print. Hopefully will improve our universities and institutes and the teaching of science in languages other than English.

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