‘Disappointing’: Authors as Amazon plans to shut down Westland Books

Authors and readers were not happy with the news of Westland Books shutting down, with many expressing their disappointment.

The Indian arm of global retail giant Amazon is shutting down publishing house Westland Books, which it has owned since 2017, several people involved with Amazon and Westland confirmed.

“After a thorough review, we have made the difficult decision to no longer operate Westland. We are working closely with the employees, authors, agents, and distribution partners on this transition and we remain committed to innovating for customers in India,” an Amazon spokesperson confirmed over email to Mint Lounge, the report said.

The announcement by one of the largest publishing houses in India, on Tuesday, disappointed authors, book lovers across the country.

The publishing company, which was acquired by Amazon from Trent Ltd, a subsidiary of Tata Group, in 2016, has published works of several bestselling authors including Josy Joseph, Chetan Bhagat, Ashwin Sanghi, Rashmi Bansal, Manu S Pillai, K R Meera, M Mukundan, Anuja Chauhan and Ravi Subramanian.

“So I have the letter from #Westland about the rights for my book Shades of Saffron: From Vajpayee to Modi reverting to me by end February. Feel profoundly sad to see a fine publishing house go down and hope there is a last minute plan to save it,” read Tweet by Saba Naqvi.

“My book ‘The Courtesan, the Mahatma & the Italian Brahmin’ published by Westland will cease to be available from Feb 28. I am grateful to Westland for publishing it, taking it through several reprints, and helping me generally as a writer. I owe much to @karthikavk personally,” Manu S Pillai tweeted.

The news regarding the closure came as a shock to the editors, Westland team members, and its public relations agency, who according to a staff member requesting anonymity, were informed about the decision Tuesday only.

It was particularly sad for bestselling fiction writer Ashwin Sanghi, who wrote his debut novel with Westland in 2008 and went on to publish a “dozen books” over that many years.

“It is sad to see the exit of a publishing institution. The Westland team is one of the finest in the business and there are many emotions and memories of my publishing journey with them that shall always remain with me,” Sanghi told PTI.

Amazon has said it took the decision after a thorough review.

Founded in 1962, Westland is one of India’s largest English-language trade publishers, bringing out print books and e-books in genres ranging from popular and literary fiction to business, politics, biography, spirituality, popular science, health, and self-help.

Its key publishing imprints include ‘Context’, which publishes award-winning literary fiction and non-fiction; ‘Eka’, which publishes the best of contemporary writing in Indian languages and in translation; ‘Tranquebar’, home to the best new fiction from the Indian subcontinent, the eponymous Westland Sport and Westland Business; and Red Panda, which publishes a range of books for children of different ages.

Several of Westland’s authors and readers took to Twitter to express their disappointment on the shutting down of a “great publishing house.”

“Westland was my publisher. I stand to loss heavily by their closure. But it’s not that’s worrying me. It’s the loss for me as a reader. They gave us some of the sharpest non fiction books in recent times. Until someone at Amazon got this weird idea that they should be profitable,” Journalist Nidheesh MK tweeted.

“My editor Karthik called me this morning with news that stunned me. My publisher, Westland, a 60-year-old company, acquired by Amazon in 2017, is shutting shop. Unlike multi-nationals with presence in India or Indian origin publishers, Westland remained a niche publisher bringing out brilliant books over the years.Westland closing is a top-down decision, reasons unknown. This is a big loss to the Indian publishing industry. I am glad and thankful I could work with their excellent team. Respect!,” author Amandeep Sandhu wrote on Facebook.