The world’s longest duration book fair drew to a close this week. The annual Amar Ekushey Boi Mela runs for the entire length of February, and this year broke records for book sales despite early controversy over payment methods allowed at the event.
When I reported in early February that the Bangla Academy, the organiser of the fair, had teamed with the mobile payments operator Bkash to offer extra discounts for book-lovers, it seemed like a win-win for all concerned.
But it soon became apparent all was not as it should be and other payment options were being sidelined to ensure a favourable outcome for the mobile payments operator.
Enter the Dhaka High Court, and a temporary ruling that all payment options would be allowed, pending a final decision at some later date.
Despite the muddle, which must have set back at least some sales prior to the High Court ruling, the final numbers are impressive.
Over 4.500 new books were released at the event, and while there is no break down of how the new books fared compared to more established titles available, early reports in the Dhaka Times suggested BDT 70.5 crore books had been sold at the event.
United Bangladesh News offers us an updated TFK 80 crore for final sales, presented in an infographic that shows just how much book buying at the event has increased over the past five years.
The BDT 80 crore equates to $9.6 million USD.
And that’s up from just $1.2 million in 2013. Not bad going for a book fair in a country in Asia that most authors and publishers in the west regard as not worth engaging with.