“This book is authored by me. Would you like to buy it?”, an old man with several copies of his self-published book walked around the Kolkata Book Fair and approached the visitors. This has been a common sight at the Kolkata Book Fair over the years. The fair has emerged as a cultural identity for the City of Joy and a meeting place for diverse thoughts.
The 44th edition of the Kolkata Book Fair organised by the Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Guild was held from January 29, 2020 to February 9, 2020 at the Central Park Ground in Salt Lake, Kolkata. With Russia being the theme country this year, other countries like the United Kingdom, the United States of America, China, Japan, Vietnam, and Bangladesh also participated in this year’s fair. According to guild sources, last year around 2.4 million people turned up for this annual event. Books worth of Rs. 21 crore were sold last year.
Sagnik Banerjee on behalf of Sagnik Books, Publishers and Rare Bookseller, told BE, “Kolkata Bok Fair is like the Durga Puja for publishers and booksellers. It is a huge boost for our business.” On asking about its relevance in an age of digitalisation, Banerjee replied, “We also deliver books on Amazon but in Kolkata Book Fair we mainly offer our rare collection for people with varied interests.”
The entry fee for the Kolkata Book Fair was waived a few years ago. Some had apprehended that this move would lead to unnecessary crowding. Reacting to this, Banerjee said, “Due to that move our sales have increased. However, when people had to buy tickets, we used to get a lot of real book-lovers who kept coming back to enhance their collection.”
Tridib Chatterjee, President, Publishers and Booksellers, Guild Informed media that this year the fair witnessed a rising trend in sales. Media sources stated that as of February 9 morning, books of worth Rs. 23 crore were sold. However, many stall owners were of the opinion that the downpour during the first two days of the fair slowed down the business. Several stall owners complained that due to lack of precautions on behalf of the management, there were water puddles infront of the stalls.
Utpal Bhattacharjee, Editor, Kobitirtho Publishers, informed BE, “Due to the downpour, my stall suffered seriousdamage and the sales figures for those days were almosthalf than that of the previous years. But fortunately, the last few days saw better business.” The small publishers complained that due to the rain, they suffered the mostwhereas the big publishers who had their stalls in the middleof the ground were less affected. Bhattacharjee is also of the opinion that the shift of location from the MilanMela Ground to the Central Park Ground has beendetrimental. He added, “Our sales have declined due to the shift as many of our regular customers fail to visit thisvenue due to the distance.”
Despite the instances of mismanagements, the popularity of the fair remains intact till date. It provides a huge platform for young authors to showcase their creations. This year, three new books of Suvankar Ghosh Roychowdhury, a young author, were released. He told BE, “Book Fair is the biggest platform, not only for budding authors, but for established and popular ones as well. Young, promising authors get to meet their potential readership at the Book Fair. That’s the highest number of people a Calcutta-based author writing in Bengali might expect to reach out to. Now whether you succeed in making them buy your books or not depends entirely on your promotional ventures.”
He added, “A fairly large section of the youth is into digitalisation. An ideal situation might be to use thoseplatforms they are frequenting to promote promising books in such a way as to grab their attention. To what extent this will succeed in stretching the boundaries of the readers’ community, only time will tell.”