Kolkata International Book Fair is the world’s largest non-trade book fair. This year marks its 43rd year. The fair was held between January 30 and February 11 at the Central Park Mela Ground, Salt Lake, Kolkata.
Highlights of the Kolkata International Book Fair
This year, the theme country was Guatemala. The Ambassador of Guatemala, Professor Euda Morales was present at the inauguration. The three halls mainly displaying English publications were named after Nirendranath Chakraborty, Dibyendu Palit, and Atin Bndyopadhyay (literary figures who have passed away recently), while the Little Magazine Pavilion was named after Pinaki Thakur.
The international complex had participation from countries like the UK, the US, Russia, China, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and many Latin American countries. There was an Iranian representation for the first time.
The fair also hosted the 6th Kolkata Literature Festival from February 7 to February 9. Authors from Russia, Costa Rica, Spain, Scotland, Australia, Guatemala, Argentina, and Bangladesh along with noted Indian writers took part. The organisers had focused on highlighting Lepcha literature and culture. Accordingly, the Lepcha Development Board had a stall at the fair.
A special stall was installed to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The stall displayed photocopies of Gandhi’s original letters, hand spun threads and also exhibited some rare books on Gandhi like Young India, Harijan and several other publications. The CESC stall was a big hit. A daily lottery organised by CESC was a big attraction. Additionally, there were numerous book launches that were organised during this book fair.
Economics of the fair
The book fair is considered to provide publishers with heightened business oppurtunities. An insider informed, “Stalls generally sell around 500 to 1000 books every day.” Before it started, Tridib Chatterjee, General Secretary of The Publishers and Booksellers Guild, the organisers of the fair, said, “The fair witnessed a total footfall of 2.2 million people, translating into sales of approximately Rs. 22 crore in 2018. We are expecting to surpass that this year.”
According to the organisers, seven lakh people had arrived in the fair till February 5, 2019, and sales of around Rs. 8 crore were completed. Chatterjee also mentioned that social media and online publicity had helped to augment interest in this year’s fair.
Kolkata’s College Street, usually swarming with booklovers and students wears a deserted look, during this literary extravaganza. An official of publishing company Rupa & Co present at the company’s stall in the book fair told BE,
“Our retail counters in College Street see lower footfalls during the book fair.”
The idea of the book fair was first discussed and finally given shape in 1975. The Publishers & Booksellers Guild came into being with Sushil Mukherjee as its first president and Jayant Manaktala as its general secretary. In 1991, a focal theme was introduced along the lines of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The book fair started to have one Indian state as its theme every year. Assam emerged as the first focal theme. From 1997 onwards, the focal theme has been a foreign country, starting with France. The 33rd International Kolkata Book Fair was held at Milan Mela ground opposite Science City on an 18-acre land in 2009. Since 2018, the event has been taking place at the Central Park in Salt Lake.