What started as an experiment to blend a bookstore with a library, for engineer couple Pankaj P Singh and Deep in 1997, has taken another leap with the launch of an independent publishing house. The Browser is now out with its first book of fiction — its seventh title in two years.
Its founder credits the initiation of publishing to sheer chance. “I have always been thinking of expanding beyond the bookstore and library, but the push came from Lt Gen NS Brar (retd). He brought along a manuscript looking for recommendations for publishers. I found it so intriguing that I offered to publish it. He graciously agreed,” shares Pankaj. Drummers Call was the debut launch for The Browser Publishing at the Military Literature Festival in 2018.
“Whenever I thought of publishing, I would wonder where I would find authors,” reminiscences Pankaj. And he found them right here in Chandigarh. “The city has always been strong when it comes to readership. That we have so many interesting authors too came as a pleasant surprise.”
After The Defence of Duffers Drift, for The PoW Who Saved Kashmir: Unsung Saga of Sher Bachha Brig Pritam Singh, Pankaj turned a co-author with Brig Jasbir Singh (retd). Different genres were covered: from Sociopreneur Zero to One by Kunal Nandwani, to Vipul Negi’s Wilderness is Us, to Rhymes for all Climes by Devinder Singh Sra.
While the lockdown threw people off guard, Pankaj used the time for editing. The Browser is now out with its first work of fiction, Dusk Over the Mustard Fields by Ranjit Powar, set in colonial Punjab. Tying up with distributors, their books are now available at leading bookstores and globally through Amazon too. “Think of it as our coming to the other side of the table. While we have been promoting books by other publishers so far, now we have our books and are reaching out.”
The readership in the tricity has remained healthy in the last two decades, Pankaj vouches. “While one cannot deny that people now opt to order online or find a friend in Kindle, but that’s just the marketing part of it,” he says.
Amazon, he points out, is estimated to command over half the market but post-Covid, there has been a general trend on social media to support indie bookstores. “Also, a lot of indie bookstores are adapting to digital media to fulfil orders.”
As for publishing, he sees a bright future. “Some bookstores have closed down, but overall sales have increased.”
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