Lost in transit

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Jan 27 2008, 04:31am hrs
It should have been on par with the Frankfurt and London book fairs. But court battles, shifting venues and pollution charges have rubbed some of the sheen off the International Kolkata Book Fair, which, in its 33rd year, is caught in administrative tangles it could have done without.

The venue of the book fair was shifted from the Maidan, the lungs of the city, several years ago, and ever since, it has had a nomadic existence. This year, its again being held at a new venue, the Park Circus Maidan.

There should be a permanent solution to this, says Sudhanshu Dey, partner, Deys Publishing, one of the oldest publishers in Kolkata, and ground convener of the Kolkata Book Fair. Like Delhi has its Pragati Maidan earmarked for book fairs and other festivals, Kolkata too craves for a permanent venue.

Subir Mitra, GM, Ananda Publishers (ABP Group), points out that the Kolkata Book Fair has had a great rub-off effect on the hinterland. At least 300 small book fairs are organised in the districts; even non-resident Bengalis are organising book fairs through their various Bengali associations.

As C B Navalkar, CEO, Crossword Bookstores, puts it: Book fairs are trade-oriented and provide networking opportunities for publishers, retailers and book agents. He says, Treat books as a commodity.

If you can reach your reader, you will get your buyer.

But do people buy at book fairs Well, not everyone who attends the fair buys a book, admits Dey. But theres tremendous word-of-mouth publicity. Mitra points out that one positive side to the constant shifting of venues of the Kolkata Book Fair is that now mostly serious readers visit the fair, and hence, sales have gone up.

The theme for this years fair, to be held from January 30-February 10, is the US, with noted American writer Paul Theroux slated to inaugurate it. Besides, a host of writers, poets and delegates from at least 15 countries are attending.

Only, if the administrative issues and irritants like traffic woes were sorted out, the Kolkata Book Fair neednt have been in danger of losing its place of prominence.