The 14th annual Madurai Book fair is underway in India, running through until September 9.
Organised by the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPSI) this year’s fair has over 250 stalls, of which 149 are devoted to Tamil books and 67 to English titles, with seven multimedia stalls.
The Times of India reports that at last year’s event 200,000 visitors bought 1.2 million books, and that this year the expectations are that visitors will surpass 300,000 and book sales exceed 1.5 million.
At which point let’s remind ourselves that
- This is not a trade event where the numbers are made up from rights sales and wheeling and dealing between agents and publishers, just a public-facing book fair where booklovers descend to find a better choice and price of books than regular bookstores can match, and
- That this book fair is not, by Indian standards, unusual in its visitor numbers or sales numbers.
Last year the New Delhi World Book Fair had a very disappointing turnout of “only” 900,000 visitors.
Nonetheless India’s 2019 book fair season got off to a fine start with over 5 million people spending over $5 million on books in just the first six weeks of the year.
That was down to the Kolkata book fair (2.3 million visitors spending $3.2 million), the Chennai book fair where 1.4 million visitors spent $2.3 million) and the aforementioned “disappointing” New Delhi World Book Fair.
Since then there have been countless more book fairs and festivals across India that collectively will have pulled in millions more visitors spending millions more dollars on books.
While some of these sales may be reported to Nielsen and the other stats counters that tell us how big the Indian book market is, it’s safe bet many more are totally off the radar of the national book market count, meaning the real size of the India book market could be substantially higher than we give it credit for.