In the quiet premises of Kitab Publishers, I find Kalpana deeply engrossed typing on her laptop. As the CEO of Kitab Publishers, a Kathmandu-based publication house, Kalpana Dhakal has been a part of the Nepali publishing industry for four years now. With books published in different genres, some of their best-selling include Sati, Mokshabhumi and Kara.
Kalpana’s background in journalism is what led her towards the publishing industry. She shares, “I was always surrounded by people who read books, talked about books and wrote books, at home and in my friends circle.” Kalpana got the chance to meet many writers throughout her career as a journalist and the welcoming circle is what attracted her to publishing.
Books by authors Sujit Mainali, Keshab Dahal, Rajendra Parajuli and Durga Subedi are among some renowned books published by Kitab Publishers. “My favourite part about working at a publishing house is talking to my writers,” shares Kalpana. She says, “Writers always have thoughts and opinions on issues and talking to them is always insightful. While fiction writers share their innovative, imaginary thoughts, non-fiction writers share their research results.” For Kalpana, time spent talking to writers is always time well spent.
She talks about some challenging aspects of her work, “At the present, most publications are struggling with making good sales. But most importantly, figuring out which book is a good one and ensuring that good books approach Kitab Publishers is definitely challenging.” All publishers aim to publish good books. But while looking for good books, it takes a lot of time and effort to decide which book to publish that can also be commercially viable. “Our stories are enriched and straight forward, but at the same time make it an interesting reading experience. We as a group give the reader a variety of stories to read,” she says.
How receptive have readers been to their books? “Very,” believes Kalpana. It is debatable now whether Nepali youth are more interested in English literature today because of the changing time, school environment, and impact of English as a global language. Kalpana opinionates, “There might be a chunk of readers in some schools reading English, but there are still many that prefer reading Nepali books. Some youths planning on studying abroad or pursuing a degree in literature will surely be inclined towards reading English books more. However, I have noticed that the youths these days are interested in learning about the history of Nepal and opt for Nepali books.” Kalpana shares about a book discussion event for Sati, “The book received compliments from a 70-year-old man and also by young college students who seemed just as interested in discussing the book.”
Today many readers are switching to e-books that benefit the environment while being pocket-friendly. How has this transition affected Kitab Publishers? “Changing trends among readers compel us to adjust as well. Books by our publication are available on digital platforms for all readers,” Kalpana shares. However, she has noticed that many Nepali readers still prefer the feel of reading a physical copy. “It is the duty of publications to cater to the needs of their readers so we adapt to whatever form of reading our readers seek, be it physical copies, ebooks or audiobooks.”
As a female publisher, Kalpana is persistent in supporting female Nepali writers. She says, “As a woman in publishing, we encourage women to participate in book discussions, to read, to write and to speak. It is saddening to have a higher number of men writers approaching the publication. However, as more women are being exposed to writing, the trend is slowly changing.”
Kalpana’s future plans for Kitab Publishers also encompasses women writers in the country. She says, “I plan on conducting workshops for women that allow them to get a perspective on writing. Sujit Mainali, the author of Sati is experienced not only in writing but also in research. One of my plans to support budding writers includes pairing an experienced writer like Sujit with an aspiring writer. I am sure budding writers can gain expertise on writing and research with their guidance, and hopefully go on to become renowned authors. I am grateful to be in a position where I can influence a change for women in writing”.