Publishing houses in doldrums

Pradip Kumar Das

The State currently has over 700 firms but many cannot print error-free books

Only textbook publishers survive and few takers for literary, magazine publishers

CUTTACK: The once flourishing publishing business of Cuttack city, called the Banipeetha of Orissa, is now staring at a bleak future. Not very long ago there were more than 500 publishers doing good business here. Now they have dwindled to a handful.

Hard times

Ever since the first publishing house in the State -- Orissa Mission Press -- came up here way back in 1822, set up by the Baptist missionaries, the lanes and by-lanes of the city opened up new vistas for Oriya writers, publishers and readers alike.

But now, hardly about 25 of them continue to remain in this sanctified profession.

“While a handful of publishing houses still continue to print and publish reading material despite a slump in demand, most others have converted their publishing houses into retail counters to eke out a living,” says Sudhansu Mohapatra of the famous Friends Publishing House.

Many factors

The downslide of publishing houses could be attributed to many reasons like limited market and lack of purchasing capacity, but other factors like poor reading habit among youth and absence of quality writing have contributed emphatically for it, says another publisher.

Although Orissa had about a dozen publishing houses in 1884, the State currently has over 700 presses.

But this is not a positive trend, looking into the fact that over 600 such publishing houses cannot even print an error-free paragraph, forget about printing books,” says Dr S K Kar, a college teacher.

Moreover, the printing quality and getup of books have gone down over the years, he feels.

Tracing the history of publishers in Cuttack, Sreedhar Mohapatra Sharma of Grantha Mandir pointed out that only textbook publishers survived to some extent during and a little after Independence but there were few takers for literary and magazine publishers.

Great loss

He also feels that ever since the Board of Secondary Education in the State, textbook bureau and other Universities began publishing their own textbooks, publishers suffered a great deal and decided to closedown their houses.

It was the last nail on the coffin of publishing houses when the Government Press came up in early 60’s and started publishing government stationeries, Mohapatra feels.

Sounding optimistic, he however, suggests that the State Government should come forward to revive the publishing houses by way of patronisation.

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