Online behemoth Amazon is preparing to close down the Indian publishing company Westland Books, which it had acquired from Trent Ltd, a subsidiary of the Tata Group, in 2016. People familiar with the matter told Scroll.in that senior employees of Westland were officially informed of Amazon’s decision by its CEO Gautam Padmanabhan on Tuesday.
Purchased five years ago, Westland was meant to add an Indian arm to Amazon’s own operations as a publisher of books, which it runs globally through Amazon Publishing, in addition to its e-commerce and internet services businesses.
In a statement, Amazon said: “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.”
Employees told Scroll.in that they were have been told that efforts will be made to place them elsewhere in the Amazon system.
Westland, a homegrown publishing company, unlike multinationals like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and the Hachette Group, all of whom operate in the trade books (non-textbooks) segment, is estimated by market experts to have a turnover of about Rs 30 crore. While this is small compared to the multinationals, the bulk of sales for the latter come from imported books, with books published in India contributing only a small proportion of revenues.
Westland’s imprints include Context, Tranquebar, Eka (for non-English Indian languages) and Westland. Among its topselling authors in the commercial segment are Chetan Bhagat and Amish, both of whose titles sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Under Context, Westland has published highly-regarded and prizewinning literary fiction and a number of well-received books on politics, society, and the arts.
It is not clear yet what will happen to the company’s backlist, built over five years, which are available in the market. This is the first time that the closure – and not sale – of a major English language publishing company has been announced in India in recent years.