What comes as a shocking news to the entire literary community, Amazon has announced the closure of Indian publishing company Westland Books, five years after it acquired the company from Trent Limited, a subsidiary of the Tata Group.

The decision was conveyed to senior employees of the company on Tuesday, February 1, by its CEO (chief executive officer) Gautam Padmanabhan.

The publishing company has published works of several bestselling authors including Amish Tripathi, Chetan Bhagat, Ashwin Sanghi, Rashmi Bansal, Rujuta Diwekar, Preeti Shenoy, Devdutt Pattanaik, Anuja Chauhan and Ravi Subramanian.

“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.

Founded in 1962, Westland is one of India’s largest English-language trade publishers, bringing out print books and e-books in genres ranging from popular and literary fiction to business, politics, biography, spirituality, popular science, health and self-help.

Why did the likes of Chetan Bhagat choose Amazon-backed Westland? The simple logic of wider publicity.

Ask Bhagat about his decision to move on from Rupa Publications, and he says “Amazon’s online advantage and their commitment to reach every corner of India ties in well with my goals of inspiring every Indian to read books.” Knowing that Amazon Kindle is a classic case of vertical engineering — you buy the product and also the book — this is what Bhagat has to say: “Amazon’s global reach, especially with Kindle eBooks, will give me readers worldwide.”

While Westland Books did publish very popular titles in the recent years, thanks to Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi, it also published some award-winning literary fiction books and socio-political non-fiction that grabbed attention and has the potential of going down in history.

Bestselling writer Amish Tripathi, one of India’s top selling author and the creator of several super-hit mythological fiction series like The Shiva Trilogy and The Ramchandra Series confirmed that Amazon had informed him about the decision to shut down the publishing house, but said he was yet to work out the details of how this would affect the publication of his previous and forthcoming works.

Westland’s shutdown means shaky ground for associated authors. 

The fate of unpublished books under development at Westland is not immediately known, and it is unclear whether existing books will continue to be in print. Many in the literary and publishing world reacted with dismay following the news.

Those at Amazon Publishing may be silent, but not social media, which is abuzz with authors and readers hedgehogging theories across platforms. On Twitter, conversation on the books churned out by Westland is splitting people into a political tug of war.

In a few words, books are the catalysts, but business is the goal. But Westland’s switch of ownership twice within four years and a complete shutdown has a more interesting story to tell. Author and journalist Rasheed Kidwai says, “No corporation will say it shut down a publication because it wasn’t profitable. It is only up to us to make guesses.” The chatter in the industry has heated up since then, and there’s a clear verbal jigsaw war to answer why Amazon is bidding goodbye to Westland.