The rise and rise of book fairs and festivals around the world has been a central theme of TNPS this past year, in blatant defiance of the doom and gloom mongers who insist interest in books is on the wane.

The reality of course is that books and reading have never been more popular, but in this digital twenty-first century readers are finding alternatives to bookstores to sate their appetites.

Ebooks naturally are part of that, but only part.

Ironically ebooks are often the least accessible format for readers, even though in theory anyone anywhere on the planet can download and read on their smartphones.

But that’s a topic for another time, as is the rise and rise of online bookstores selling print books.

Here to just mention how digital – in the form of social media – is at the heart of an unprecedented renaissance in book fairs and festivals across the globe.

And nowhere more so than in India, which this year held at least 200 significant book fairs, with several attracting literally millions of visitors buying millions of books.

2019 is already shaping up to be a record-breaking year for book fairs and festivals, and in India we’ll see that prospect in action starting January 4 when the Chennai Book Fair kicks off in south India.

First let’s take a look at the 2018 numbers.

In January 2018 the Chennai Book Fair clocked 1.3 million visitors.

But were they just there for the day out, you ask, or did anyone actually buy any books?

Try 1.2 million books sold, to the US dollar value of $2.3 million.

India’s Chennai Book Fair sets new record for visitors, sales and revenue

Yet bizarrely many people complained to the fair organizer, the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (Bapasi) that they couldn’t attend because of other commitments and asked if the fair could be extended.

S. Vairavan, president of Bapasi, explained,

During this time of the year, people usually leave the city for Pongal. Many told us that by the time they return, the book fair comes to an end. Due to their request, we have extended the duration of the fair by four days.

So the Chennai Book Fair, which usually runs for 10-13 days, has been extended to 17 days, and the expectation is some 2 million people will turn out for the event, with hopes of a record-breaking number and value of books sold.

Vairavan  said,

Close to 500 publishers and sellers will display books of new authors in all regional languages. We have also got calls from publishers based in Delhi, Karnataka and Kerala who want to take part in the upcoming fair.

Perhaps the biggest news here, though, is the international interest this year.

Currently the Kolkata International Book Fair and the New Delhi World Book Fair are the two biggest international book events in India, attracting above 2 million visitors each.

But this year Bapasi has had interest from Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia among others.

This is the first time that we have got calls from readers from other countries. The app we had launched last year to guide people about the fair has also contributed to its increasing popularity.

We’ll know more about the Chennai Book Fair as the year ends, with a full press briefing prior to the event’s 2019 launch on January 4.

Meanwhile launching tomorrow, December 15 through 25 we have the Hyderabad Book Fair in India.

And yes, that does mean the last day of the fair is on Christmas Day.

A reminder that the global book market has no regard for the idiosyncrasies of our western publishing calendar.