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July 15, 1999
'Earth Times' Takes Up No-Profit Book Publishing
Aparna Narayanan in New York
It is notoriously difficult for new writers from developing countries to crack the insular world of Western mainstream publishing. But the launch of a non-profit book publishing company, Earth Times Books, promises to provide a forum for fresh voices from the developing world to be heard internationally.
The brainchild of Pranay Gupte, 51, editor of The Earth Times, the new publishing house's first title is All of Us: Births and a Better Life -- Population, Development and Environment in a Globalized World. It contains selections of reportage and opinion from the pages of The Earth Times, a print and Web newspaper that Gupte founded in 1991 initially to cover the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The book's formal publication date is September 15, but it is already available through amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and through the Web (www.earthtimes.org). Contributors to the 500-page anthology include new writers from developing countries as well as prominent names such as President Bill Clinton, A M Rosenthal, columnist for The New York Times, Nafis Sadik, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, and Seymour Topping, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes.
"There are far too many publications that follow advocacy journalism, which means they hit you on the head with the idea that green is good," says Bombay-born Gupte, who is committed to the idea that environmental protection is inextricable from the welfare of the people who inhabit the environment. "The core of our idea for the book was to examine the human environment. We always had in the mind the linkages between people and their environment."
Gupte's fascination with what he describes as "the human environment" was not readily shared by the publishing houses to which he pitched the idea of an anthology of articles about population, development and the environment. He proceeded to investigate the economics of publishing and discovered that "the more research I did, the less mysterious and formidable the process of publishing the book ourselves seemed."
A rich seam of articles by Indians and about India runs through the volume because "India remains a major story that captures the human drama of the environment," says Gupte. These include articles on AIDS orphans in Thailand by Satya Sivaraman, a Southeast Asia-based writer, on unplanned growth in Chandigarh by Vir Singh, correspondent for National Public Radio, on Sikh minorities by Rahul Singh, former resident editor of the Indian Express in Bombay and on reporting from India by Abe Rosenthal who was a reporter for the NYT in India in the 1960s.
Earth Times Books expects to publish six to 10 titles each year, including a non-fiction book by Audrey Ronning Topping. A widely published author and photojournalist, Topping's travels around the world as the wife of Seymour Topping, former foreign correspondent and managing editor of the NYT, will form the basis of her memoir.
"I feel delighted now that the first venture of Earth Times Books is in its final stages," says Gupte, who lives in Brooklyn with his wife Jayanti Lal of Hyderabad and their son Jaidev, a freshman at Oberlin College in Ohio.
The author of five books on India and developmental issues, Gupte adds, "There is an almost child-like sense of wonder and thrill at seeing one's name in print, whether it is a byline in a newspaper or on the dust-jacket of a book."
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