2020 is off to a great start on the global book fair front, but what follows should be seen as indicative, and by no means inclusive of all the literary events lined up for this month.

January started with an event carried over from Christmas Eve 2019:

The New Town Book Fair in Kolkata, India, began December 24, and with scant regard for our western holidays kept going through Christmas and the New Year, and will finish January 5.

But even before that Kolkata event (there’s another coming up) has finished the somewhat bigger New Delhi World Book Fair kicks off on January 4, finishing January 12.

In 2019 the event drew a crowd of 900,000, much to the dismay of the organisers expecting a much higher turnout.

Running the exact same dates, but in Turkey, we have the first Turkish book fair of the year, the Çukurova Book Fair in Adana, which last year attracted a crowd of 365,000.

On January 9 no less than four major events kick off.

In the Middle East the Doha International Book Fair in Qatar runs January 9-18.

In Myanmar 1 million English-language books will be stacked high for the Big Bad Wolf Yangon event, which this year runs simultaneously with Big Bad Wolf Phnom Penh debut in Cambodia, where another 1 million English-language books will be up for grabs.

And also kicking off on January 9, this time though ‘til January 21, is the Chennai Book Fair in India.

In 2019 $2.5 million worth of books were sold to 1.5 million visitors, just at Chennai.

India’s book fair fun doesn’t end there. The Kerala Literary Festival runs January 16-19 and in 2019 275,000 turned out for the event. (NB The final figure has been update from the 260,000 initially reported by the organisers, as per the linked post.)

On January 22, running through until February 4, the world’s biggest book fair will get under way in Egypt. Expect anywhere between 2-4 million visitors to turn out to the 51st Cairo International Book Fair.

A day after Cairo starts we return to India where the Jaipur Literary Festival runs January 23-27. In 2019 400,000 turned out for the event.

Bear in mind the New Delhi World Book Fair had finished less than two weeks earlier on January 12, and the Chennai Book Fair two days earlier on the 21st. Between the four (New Delhi, Chennai, Kerala and Jaipur), upwards of 3.5 million visitors are expected if things are slow.

Then two days after Jaipur wraps up it’s the start of the Kolkata International Book Fair. In 2019 Kolkata saw 2.4 million visitors spend $3 million on books.

Which means we’re looking at well over 6 million visitors spending well over $5 million on books, just in India, just in January.

We wind off January with one of the world’s biggest comics events, the Angoulême International Comics Festival which runs January 30 through Feb 2 in France. Attendance of 200,00 is par for the course.

Bearing in mind,

a) that I’ve almost certainly missed some big events,

b) that I’m taking low-end figures for the expected New Delhi and Cairo events, and

c) that we don’t have numbers available for Kolkata New Town, for Doha, and for the Myanmar and Cambodia Big Bad Wolf events – even so we are looking at upwards of 8 million and possibly up to 10 million people turning out to book fairs and festivals in parts of the world most of us likely never give a second thought to so far as books are concerned.

And we’ve barely got into February in this summary.

The global book market. It’s so much bigger than you think.