…But when we consider Bangladesh has literally twice as many internet users as the UK, serious questions have to be asked about the publishing industry’s leadership in this wonderful country.
I tend not, usually, to call the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela the world’s biggest book fair, because it has a slight advantage over its competitors in the global publishing arena: This book fair lasts literally an entire month.
So we shouldn’t be so surprised that, in a country of 167 million people, 6 million should turn out for a book fair.
After all, Egypt’s Cairo International Book Fair clocked 3.6 million visitors this year, India’s Kolkata International Book Fair pulled in 2.6 million, and Spain’s Madid Book Fair attracted 3 million visitors last summer.
Sadly, book buying at the Boi Mela was down – way down – on pre-Pandemic numbers, as spiralling production costs forced up book prices at a time when consumers were struggling with essential living costs.
The reported sales (which will not be all sales – the real number will be higher) topped “only” BDT 470 million ($4.4 million) this year, compared to BDT 820 million ($7.6 million), and when we factor in an average price increase of 25% we can see that in real terms unit book sale numbers were also down.
For Bangladeshi publishers – and especially those who have eschewed digital and choose to still rely totally on print sales, this means a difficult year ahead, as the Ekushey Boi Mela is where most publishers make most of their annual revenue. The South Asian equivalent of the western Christmas sales bonanza.
The reluctance to embrace digital options is understandable in that Bangladesh is still only at 77% internet penetration.
But when we consider that 77% equates to 139 million people online – literally twice as many internet users as the UK – serious questions have to be asked about the publishing industry’s leadership in this wonderful country.