Kolkata has for the longest time resisted digital options, as TNPS regulars will know, but this year has been welcome exception and while there’s much more that could have been done with this hybrid event, 2022 will surely mark a watershed moment for not just Kolkata but all southern India book fairs.
India’s book fair calendar is finally back on track after endless Covid-induced postponements and cancellations, with the latest numbers rolling in coming from the usually annual Chennai Book fair, organised by the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI).
The 18-day event attracted eager crowds of booklovers, with 15 lakh (1.5 million) footfall recorded, and 12 crore rupees (R120 million – about USD 1.6 million) in sales, improving on last year’s watered down event that attracted only 1 million visitors, but not setting any records for Chennai, let alone India, where 2 million visitor events were in pre-Covid times commonplace.
BAPASI reported that the regular Rs 75 lakh ($98,000) government subsidy for the event was this year raised to Rs 125 lakh ($164,000) to enable a reliable event for publishers recovering from Covid-induced losses.
Per the Indian Express BAPASI has pitched to the government to increase the frequency of the Chennai Book Fair and were optimistic the government would concur.
Meanwhile it is reported Kolkata’s New Town Book Fair will have two editions this year, with the regular December event to take place in, unsurprisingly, December, while the 2021 event that was postponed from this past December has just finished in February.
The first 2022 edition, despite a subdued Covid-impacted turnout, sold books worth Rs 33 lakh (USD 43,000). Volume has not been reported but given the typical price for books in India, and given the numbers we have from Chennai, we can safely say a lot of books were sold.
Meanwhile the big sister Kolkata International Book Fair, still happening, has been seeing over one hundred thousand visitors each day since it opened.
Running until March 13 for 14 days total, the average 100,000 daily footfall puts Kolkata on target to see 1.4 million visitors this year, but we can reasonably expect the final weekend tally to soar especially as the Kolkata Literature Festival takes place within the Kolkata fair this weekend, and take Kolkata’s final count above that of Chennai and likely close to the typical 2 million or more visitors expected in pre-Covid-times. In 2020, just before the Pandemic reached India, footfall of 2.4 million was recorded.
Kolkata has for the longest time resisted digital options, as TNPS regulars will know –
but this year has been welcome exception and while there’s much more that could have been done with this hybrid event, 2022 will surely mark a watershed moment for not just Kolkata but all southern India book fairs – a topic I’ll return to here at TNPS soon if the West African internet gods will let me.