What does ‘Pothi’ mean?

One of the most common questions we get asked.

First let me clarify all that it does not mean or refer to.

‘Pothi’ has nothing to do with the name of the famous silk shop in Chennai called ‘Pothys’.

During the book festival we learned that ‘Pothi’ is a caste/surname in Kerala. Our use of Pothi has nothing to do with that either. We are not a Pothi matrimony site, rest assured.

And it also does not mean grand-daughter in hindi. That one is ‘Poti’ (पोती) and not ‘Pothi’ (पोथी).

Pothi means ‘a book’ in Hindi. It has come from the Sanskrit word ‘Pustak’ distorted through Apbhransh and other languages that developed in North India. ‘Pothi’ or some variation of it means ‘a book’ in many other North Indian languages too including Punjabi and Bengali.

The word is not used in day to day spoken Hindi though. It is an obscure word now and is sometimes used to refer to old manuscripts or scriptures. Sikhs use this word to refer to their religious book. If you have studied Hindi at some point of time in your life and still can not place the word, the following couplet from Kabir may come in handy

पोथी पढ़-पढ़ जग मुआ, पण्डित भया ना कोय,
ढाई आखर प्रेम का, पढ़े सो पण्डित होय।

Approximate Translation: Nobody becomes a learned person by reading lots of books. Those who just read the two and a half letters of love become the learned ones.

Although this couplet discounts the usefulness of books (and we don’t like that 🙂 ), but the reason I mention it here is that the word used for book in it is ‘Pothi’.

So next time you hear Pothi, think books – printed one at a time on demand just like the handwritten manuscripts of yore.

[BBF09] ‘Best of Pothi.com’ Cover Page!

‘Best of Pothi.com’ is a collection of excerpts from 15 of the titles published through Pothi.com. The titles come from all sorts of genres – there are short stories, poetry, novels, memoirs and it looks beautiful – at least to my biased eyes :).'Best of Pothi.com' cover

But you may ask why this collection. I quote from the preface:

In past one year, more than 150 authors have chosen Pothi.com as their partner in self-publishing. Through them, we have come to better understand the problems faced by independent authors. Since these individuals lack the marketing muscle of traditional publishing houses, more often than not they fail to get the kind of visibility that their works deserve. The books don’t get reviewed in mainstream media, they don’t get interviewed by journalists and only few readers get to see their work.

Through this collection, we have attempted to ameliorate the situation by choosing to showcase a few select works of self published authors which are available with us. The selection represents a diverse genre of books including fiction, humour, children’s book and self improvement. These authors have explored their creative side and have a charming tale or an important thought to share with you.

The collection is available on Pothi.com stall (#288) in Bangalore Book Festival, running till 15th Nov. It will also be available on the website shortly afterwards. Do grab a copy and let us know what you think. Your feedback will help us make it even more awesome! (If you still can’t tell, I am a big fan of How I met your Mother 🙂 )

‘Best of Pothi.com’ with Self Publishing Guide is here

From today, our special collection ‘Best of Pothi.com’ is available on the shelf (of our stall at Bangalore Book Festival 🙂 ). It showcases chapters from some selected books at Pothi.com. These come from diverse genres like fiction, memoirs, self-help, children’s writing etc.

The book also includes the first self publishing guide specific to India. Although a lot of information about self publishing is available on Internet, an author looking at Indian market is under-served. The Indian scene is quite different in terms of how players of publishing industry work as well as how readers choose and buy the books. This guide will prepare self publishing authors to work in Indian conditions. We will start posting some excerpt from the guide here soon.

Meanwhile, check out the collection at Pothi.com’s stall (#288) in Bangalore Book Festival 2009.

[BBF09] Tarot Card Reading Session

We had a tarot card reading session by Anupa Patri, author of Yoganidra, this tuesday.

It is fun for some people and a tool for unveiling the future or learning more about the past for some. Either way, the participants were queuing up for the reading.

Bangalore Book Festival 2009 Tarot Card Reading @ Pothi.com

Tarot cards originated as a game, but have gained popularity as a prediction tool for many. For fun or for the belief, if you are interested, Anupa will be around over this weekend too. So, if you are interested in a reading, drop down on the stall.

His book Yoganidra is also available at a special discounted price of Rs. 220 at the stall (#288). His website is http://yoganidra.in

[BBF09] Our titles must be good

.. since somebody tried to shop-lift couple of them yesterday. Unfortunately for him, since I am a nervous first time retail shop operator, I keep a keen eye. Moreover he chose to take a book out of the only two in the stack – pretty easy to get caught on that one. Anyway, I am hoping this was the only attempt and we have not lost any more to these things.

We have also been giving away free bookmarks at Pothi.com stall and they seem to amuse a lot of people. While children usually like the one in chocolate color with gift boxes on it, grownups love the one with following quote from Shashi Tharoor:

I was a typically Indian child: I spoke Malayalam to my mother, English to my father, Hindi to our driver, Bengali to our domestic help and Sanskrit to God.

Here is the link to the full article on India’s linguistic diversity from where this quote has been taken. One of the aims of Pothi.com is to make publishing easier and more transparent for regional language authors also. In the festival, we have only couple of Hindi and one Telugu book on display although we have a larger number available on our store. We will be looking to raise these numbers even more in times to come.

[Ideas] Would you like a book fair guide?

Bangalore Book Festival this year has close to 325 stalls arranged in 4-5 lanes with stalls on both the sides. With so many stalls, even if one had all the time in the world, it is quite difficult to go to all the stalls one likes and explore them. More over all the stalls are so packed of books and with people that it is easy to miss out on the unique books a stall has and you were looking for. The practice of highlighting the bestsellers which are a easier sell means that a lot of stalls end up looking similar on the face. What does someone interested in digging more deeply into this sea of books must do?

Enter a Book Fair Guide (bfg)! Consider a person who not only knows tons about books but also knows a lot about the stalls in the fair. He knows that a publisher from Kolkata is exhibiting towards the tail end of fair and he will have books you might like. Or that a second-hand book stall has some rare copies of a book hard to find in Bangalore. Or that if you are a history buff, you should not miss out on these 5 stalls. Walking with him through the fair, you would be able to see beyond the bestsellers and heavily discounted imported books which mark so many stalls. Moreover you will be able to save your energy to visit interesting stalls even at the end of fair. There is even the possibility of themed tours through the book fair – for cookery fans, for sports buffs etc.

Stall owners also have an incentive to engage these guys and give them a lot of information since it may be hard to interact with each and every person who walks into your stall due to sheer number of them. More niche publishers will benefit from making sure that their target group is able to find them.

I personally feel being able to walk through a book fest with somebody like this will be a lot of fun. What do you guys think? Leave a comment with your views or suggestions.

[BBF09] Inauguration @ V K Gokak Auditorium

Inauguration of Bangalore Book Festival 2009The book festival was officially inaugurated today evening with the lighting of the lamp. The ceremony was as exciting as a ceremony with half a dozen speeches can be. And so most of the visitors and stall owners completely ignored the repeated calls of the organizers to join them in the V K Gokak auditorium for the same. They insteaDancers at Bangalore Book Festivald spent time where the fun things were – in the main exhibition area with all the stalls up and running.

After all the speeches and the lighting of the lamp, there was a short procession with many drummers in traditional dresses which went through all the lanes with all the guests, organizing committee and journos in their tow. Does anyone know which dancers are these?

Although I didn’t end up in the opening ceremony, I was intrigued by the name given to the auditorium – V. K. GokV. K. Gokak Auditoriumak auditorium. I had heard the name before but didn’t know much about him. It turns out that this is the centenary birth year of V. K. Gokak, an outstanding Kannada poet, novelist and critic. He was the vice chancellor of the Bangalore University and recipient of many awards including Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award, Padam Shree & Jnanpith award. He was also the head of the committee which recommended making Kannada as the first language of the Karnataka state. The recommendations were later accepted by govt after the now famous “Gokak Agitation” under the leadership of late Dr. Rajkumar – a famous Kannada Actor. For those of you who cannot read Kannada like me, you can read one of his poem’s English translation.

Another trivia: Kannada holds the distinction of having won maximum number of Jnanpith awards – 7 in all. Jnanpith is the highest literary award in India. Gokak in 1990 was the 5th Kannada writer to win this.

[BBF09] On the eve of Book Fest!

So in the afternoon today, we loaded all our stuff into 2 auto rickshaws and headed to Palace Ground to claim what was rightfully ours – a 9’x9′ stall in Bangalore Book Festival. Everything went on well – it rained a little, just enough to make us feel good but not enough to spoil the books, autowaalahs didn’t bargain with us to death and organizers were nice enough to have all arrangements in place. We set up the basic stall quickly, made a list of things to get tomorrow and then took a stroll to get some inside scoop before the official thing starts. So what did we find?

So first thing we discovered was that “Books For Change” has a stall right next to us. They hadn’t set it up yet but we hope to catch up with Rajan tomorrow. Then we headed to the lane where Flipkart.com and Pratham Books have their stalls. On the Flipkart stall, we were surprised to find no books but a lot of computers and a wall full of book covers. Looks awesome! We came home to read about this on the flipkart blog. We also stumbled across the stall of Librarywala, an online book rental startup originally based out of Mumbai and now operating in Bangalore too.

It is great to see some online startups participating in the festival this year. Last year we did launch a few books during the festival, however there was not a single online book related service with a stall in the main exhibit area. Given that Bangalore is considered a hub of technology and startups, I found it disappointing. But this year, at least 3 such companies, may be more, are participating. This is encouraging. With Kindle finally making its way to India, perhaps e-books will also feature in one or more stalls of the fest. We will find that out starting from tomorrow.

What’s up tomorrow?

  • Book Festival kick starts at 10:30am
  • We will have Rajendra Nargundkar, author of “My Experiments with Half-Truths” at the stall from 2pm to 4pm, interacting with readers and signing the books.

[BBF09] Other Participants we are looking forward to seeing

Here are a list of other interesting Bangalore based participants we are looking forward to seeing at Bangalore Book Festival 2009

  • Pratham Books: Pratham Books is a not-for-profit trust that seeks to publish high-quality books for children at a affordable cost in multiple Indian languages. They are doing a wonderful job in publishing for children across English and many Indian Languages. You can follow them at twitter for their continuous updates.
  • Flipkart: Easily the most loved online book store in India. Theirs is probably the first representation of an online book store in Book Festivals. It is definitely so in Bangalore Book Festival.
  • Books for Change: Books for Change is a publishing and distribution initiative set up to support the communication needs of civil society organizations and development sector in India. Located at Richmond Road in Bangalore, they have an impressive collection of books on social and developmental issues.

And of course, us 😉 at Stall No. 288.

[BBF09] Books at Bangalore Book Festival

Following books will be available at our stall in Bangalore Book Festival (Stall No. 288).