02 February 2022: On Tuesday, Indian readers were taken aback by Amazon’s decision to shut down publishing house Westland Books, which it had owned for the previous five years. However, it sounded like an alarm bell to the country’s small and close-knit publishing community, a message from beyond the graves of publishing firms that had died slow and painful deaths in the West, warning that the digital apocalypse may have arrived and is riding high on the pandemic wave. Is that the case?
“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.
The closing announcement came as a shock to the editors, Westland team members, and the company’s public relations firm, who were just notified about the decision today, according to a staff member who requested anonymity. It was especially heartbreaking for bestselling fiction author Ashwin Sanghi, who published his first novel with Westland in 2008 and gone on to publish a “dozen books” in the years thereafter.
Amazon has yet to provide an explanation for the abrupt shutdown (or why they did not sell off the publishing company instead of shutting it). This is the first time in recent years that a major English publishing business has closed its doors, and social media speculation is widespread that the book company has been losing money that Amazon won’t take on.
Amish Tripathi, one of India’s best-selling authors and the author of the mythological fiction series The Shiva Trilogy, also confirmed that Amazon had informed him of the decision to close Westland, but said he had yet to figure out how this would affect the publication of his previous and upcoming books.