Amazon shuts down publishing house Westland Books after five years
E-commerce behemoth Amazon on Tuesday announced the closure of Westland, one of the largest publishing houses in India. It has published works by Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi, Rashmi Bansal, Ashwin Sanghi, Rujuta Diwekar, Devdutt Pattnaik, Preeti Shenoy, Ravi Subramanian, and Anuja Chauhan among others. Amazon had acquired the publishing company from Trent Limited, a Tata Group subsidiary in 2016.
Why does this story matter?
This is the first time in recent years that the closure—rather than the sale—of a major English language publishing house has been announced in India. Westland was founded in 1962 and is one of India's leading commercial publishers. The news of the closure came as a shock to Westland staff, who were only informed of the decision on Tuesday.
Amazon issues statement on the closure
"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," said Amazon in a statement.
Westland published books in almost all genres
Westland published print and e-books in a variety of genres, including fiction, politics, business, spirituality, biography, health, popular science, and self-help. Among its key publishing imprints are 'Context,' which produces award-winning literary fiction and non-fiction; 'Eka,' which publishes the best of contemporary writing in Indian languages and translation; and 'Tranquebar,' which publishes new fiction from the Indian subcontinent.
'The Westland team is finest in the business'
The development was especially heartbreaking for bestselling fiction author Ashwin Sanghi, who published his first novel with Westland in 2008 and went on to publish a "dozen books" in the years thereafter. "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," Sanghi told PTI.
Authors take to Twitter to express disappointment
"Westland is my publisher and did so much for me, taking a chance on a non-celeb author," tweeted author Kavitha Rao. "Deeply troubling that a successful venture can be shut down this way from above, for god knows what reasons," tweeted historian and author Manu S Pillai. "Heartbreaking and upsetting day for Indian publishing," tweeted Sayantan Ghosh, senior commissioning editor at Simon & Schuster.
Reading habits changed during lockdown
Book consumers in India increased their reading time after a nationwide lockdown was imposed due to COVID-19 in March 2020, according to Statista. Roughly 58% of them spent extra seven hours or more every week on reading. Indian readers spent an average of nine hours each week reading books prior to the lockdown.