India may not have the biggest book fair in the world – that honour goes to Egypt – but for overall book fair visitor numbers India wins hands down.
Take the Chennai Book Fair which is set to run from January 9 through 21.
The 2019 incarnation witnessed 1.5 million people (up from 1.3 million in 2018) spend the USD equivalent of $2.5 million (up from $2.3 million in 2018). In 2018 that amounted to 1.2 million books sold. I’ve not been able to match a unit sales figure for 2019 (if anyone knows that, do let me know).
Now these numbers would be phenomenal even if a one-off annual occurrence, but in India book fairs attracting a million or more visitors and raking in a million or more dollars in revenue are so common they barely raise an eyebrows at home, and of course are totally overlooked by the wider world.
Right now the Hyderabad Book Fair is underway. One million visitors are expected.
That’s just the warm-up for the season, which gets serious in January and February, and will include the country’s biggest trade-facing fair, the New Delhi World Book Fair, and the country’s largest public-facing book fair, Kolkata, along with many “smaller” events that will still dwarf most western book fairs.
One such is Chennai.
The 43rd Chennai Book Fair is organised by BAPASI (Booksellers’ & Publishers’ Association of South India) and will be held at the YMCA Grounds, Nandanam, with 700 exhibitors showcasing 1.5 million titles.
Visit the BAPASI website here.
I would say follow BAPASI on twitter (@bapasimedia or BapasiOfficial) but BAPASI to appear to have all but lost interest. However #chennaibookfair2020 might get noticed.
The good news is the BAPASI Facebook page is active: @bapasi.
And for those who learned their South Asia geography in a bygone era you may better know Chennai as Madras.