The Chennai Book Fair in South India has just closed its doors, having clocked 1.3 million visitors. The Chennai organisers, BAPASI, have said 20 crore rupees worth of books were sold this year. That’s R200 million, which equates to USD $2.8 million.

The news comes days after the New Delhi World Book Fair wound up, with 1 million visitors.

Also just wound up will be the Kerala Literary Festival. No numbers for that event yet, but last year Kerala attracted a crowd of 400,000.

Just started is the Jaipur Literature Festival which is also expecting about 400,000 visitors.

Come January 29 we’ll see the Kolkata International Book Fair kick off. In 2019 Kolkata recorded $3 million worth of sales from 2.4 million visitors.

But coming back to Chennai, while sales have mostly been good at the fair – the Times of India ran the headline “Publishers laugh all the way to the bank” – booksellers are worried that online sales are eating away at their bricks & mortar store sales.

So much so that BAPASI – the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India – plans to set up its own online portal to help publishers and booksellers get a share of the action.

It’s a move that makes perfect sense in a country of 560 million internet users.

It’s not clear yet if BAPASI is thinking just about online print sales, or about embracing digital, but given the poor delivery infrastructure across this vast country such a digital initiative by a booksellers and publishers association could be a game-changer.