The 2018 book fair year is off to a great start in India, not withstanding early indications of a slight fall in visitor numbers at the New Delhi World Book Fair. I’m still awaiting confirmation on that, but meanwhile the numbers are in for the Chennai (Madras) Book Fair and it’s an impressive showing.

A record 1.3 million visitors crammed in over thirteen days, spending over $2.3 million on over 1.2 million books.
Organised by the Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association of South India (BAPASI), the 41st incarnation of the Chennai Book Fair had 708 stalls and 376 publishers, offering discounted titles to eager booklovers.
But the fair had an extra boost this year as on one Sunday 1,000 teachers arrived to buy books, armed with cash courtesy of the local education authority.
That obviously helped the record numbers this year, but 1,000 teachers is a drop in the ocean compared to the 1.2 million total visitors that turned out.
And this for just one book fair.
The 2018 book fair year started in India on January 1st – these guys don’t waste time! – with the Vijayawada Book Festival, which was so popular this year that the event was extended an extra day, although final visitor numbers and recorded sales are not yet known. Last year the Vijayawada festival sold books to the value of a half million dollars.
As reported here at TNPS earlier this month,

Five days into the New Year and the int. book fair calendar is already heaving

there’s hardly a day passes when there isn’t a book fair or festival happening somewhere on the Indian sub-continent.
So far this month we’ve already seen in India, alongside the aforementioned Vijayawada, New Delhi and Chennai events,

  • the New Town Book Fair in Kolkata
  • the Kolkata Apeejay Literary Festival
  • the Hyderabad Literary Festival
  • the Maida Book Fair

while the Jaipur Book Festival (typically attracting “only” 100,000 visitors) and the Kolkata Literary Festival are happening right now.
That’s the Kolkata Literary Festival, not to be confused with the Kolkata International Book Fair which kicks off on January 30 and that currently holds the record as the world’s most popular book fair, with 2.4 million visitors last year.
Also happening right now on the subcontinent is the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka, while next month, for the entire month, will be the Bangladesh Ekushey Book Fair.
Oh, and don’t forget the Lahore International Book Fair in Pakistan, starting February 1, where 500,000 visitors are expected, all eager to buy books.
Then back to India on February 8 for the Kerala Book Fair, before heading back to Pakistan again for the Karachi Literary Festival starting February 9.
That’s of course the Karachi Literary Festival, not to be confused with the Karachi International Book Fair in December, where 600,000 turned out in 2017.
As the year (and climate) moves on, so the focus shifts away from the Indian subcontinent as book fairs, festivals and events elsewhere in the world take centre-stage.
Over the year many tens of millions of booklovers worldwide will descend on these events spending hundreds of millions of dollars on books, mostly unnoticed by the data-collectors that tell us how big the global book markets are.
Last November, for example, at the Sharjah International Book fair in the desert of the United Arab Emirates, some 2.38 million people turned out, spending $56 million on books at the event.
The global book market is bigger than you think, and growing by the day.