India Uncut

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Friday, April 28, 2006

It's a book, not homework!

Kaavya Viswanathan's long-titled book has been withdrawn from bookstores by its publisher, and rightly so.

Bizarrely, though, the publishers have said that "the book will be revised as quickly as possible." Revised? Well, well. I guess the schmucks who buy the 'revised' book deserve to read it.

My take on the whole controversy: looking at the many passages produced as evidence, it's clear that blatant copying took place, and Viswanathan's defence of it being "unintentional and unconscious" seems implausible. But this isn't all that is unpalatable in this episode. Apparently a 'book-packager' called Alloy Entertainment helped put this book together, as also many others in its genre. The more I read about them, the more the lines blur between the author and her 'consultants,' whose role seems similar, as Manish Vij speculates here, to the music industry guys who manufacture boy bands.

That doesn't absolve Viswanathan, of course: it's her name on the jacket and she has to take responsibility for what she got herself into. And as for what these packaging factories churn out, well, there are people who read that kind of stuff, and they're welcome to it. Just as long as they don't commit patent, I mean copyright (just remembered we're talking about a book!) infringement.

Other links: Falstaff 1 and 2, Sepia Mutiny 1 and 2. (CNN link via email from Sanjeev.)

Update: Reader Shrabonti Bagchi writes in:
What you've written about 'book packaging'... well it's hardly a new phenomenon and has been happening for almost a century now. It goes by the name of Mills and Boon. The only difference is, these new 'young adult' books are conferred a certain individuality, you know the authors' names and they sometimes get big advances. Otherwise, the recurrence of similar themes, characters, mass production, assembly line books -- Mills and Boon have done it all.
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