Digital/online publishing in India is still at a nascent stage, but with steady proliferation of digital devices and improved online connectivity, it is expected to grow rapidly. In this interview, Ranjan Kaul, managing director, Oxford University Press India, shares with FEís Abhishek Chakraborty that nobody can guess the future of dictionaries and that piracy remains a perennial problem. Excerpts:
How do you choose new words that are to be included in your dictionaries?
Oxford invests a lot in dictionaries. We use various programmes to decide on which words to include in the English dictionary. The selection depends on the frequency of usage (not only written usage but verbal too), where we scan a lot of published material, including books, journals, newspapers, social media, etc.
What is the future of dictionaries, especially in India?
Whether the print edition of dictionaries will completely go out, nobody can guess. In India, we have seen that the sales of English dictionary have slowed down. But the sales of bilingual dictionaries are actually improving in the country. In fact, our bilingual dictionary programme has increased by 20%. Our bilingual dictionaries may not have a large vocabulary, but they have a lot of sentences and usage that explain how the word is actually used in everyday life.
How do you go about when you want to add a new language in your bilingual dictionary programme? Is it wholly a business decision?
Yes, partly it is a business decision because, at the end of the day, we have to make our programme commercially viable. As there is a fair amount of investment into the whole process, so we have to also see if the language is frequently used. But yes, you canít compare a new regional language dictionary with the English-Hindi ones, which are sold the most. We are slowly expanding the range of our languages. Apart from having Bengali, Tamil, Oriya, Gujarati and Marathi, we are now adding new languages such as Telugu, Malayalam, Urdu, etc.
Are all business decisions for the country taken by the OUP India office?
Our publishing decisions are primarily taken here, but there is an active involvement of Oxford in terms of deciding the quality of material. We have delegates who review the materials being published. The decision of the delegates has no commercial purpose, it is about the quality; for instance, is such a decision furthering the universities objectives? The reason we are different from any other publishing