Between 6-8 million people are expected to attend book fairs and festivals in India this January-February as the Indian book fair season steps up a gear. Today TNPS takes a look at how the new year is shaping up for India’s booklovers amid rising tensions between India and Pakistan and Sharjah’s presence at New Delhi..

Rivalry between the two biggest book fairs in India intensifies this week as the New Delhi World Book Fair prepares to go live on 5 January and the Kolkata International Book Fair limbers up for its 30 January launch.

Running until 10 February, the Kolkata fair is organised by the Publishers and Book Sellers Guild, and this year has a strong presence from Latin America thanks to Guatemala being the theme country. Along with 11 Latin American countries the Kolkata event will be attended by the US, UK, Russia, Japan, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

But despite the best efforts of the Kolkata team to bring Pakistan board –

Kolkata International Book Fair asks Pakistan PM Imran Khan to support Pakistan participation

that now looking very unlikely, as the direct appeal to the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has not even been acknowledged.

This year extra efforts are being made to ensure essential facilities like toilets and refreshments are able to meet demand, as this has been an issue in the past.

…The department of Public Health & Engineering (PHE) was instructed to have adequate arrangement of potable drinking water at the fair ground. The state Information & Cultural Affairs department will look after the publicity aspect, while Kolkata Police, in coordination with Bidhannagar City Police, will ensure foolproof security arrangement and at the same time, streamline traffic movement.

In 2018 the Kolkata IBF attracted 2.2 million visitors who spent 22 crore (220 million rupees – $3.17 million) on books.

Simultaneously the 6th Kolkata Literature Festival will be held from February 7 to 9.

Kolkata (Calcutta to those outside the country who learned geography in another era) vies with the New Delhi World Book Fair for the claim to be India’s biggest book fair. Both regularly attract over two million visitors.

This year the New Delhi event starts on January 5. With the UAE’s Sharjah as New Delhi’s guest of honour in 2019 Kolkata will have its work cut out to compete.

New Delhi, as the state-run book fair, has special interest in generating international engagement and presents itself as

a gateway to the publishing and intellectual world of South Asia.

There will also be an international events corner, an engaging platform for sharing ideas and enhancing literary understanding for foreign exhibitors, missions, embassies, cultural centres, book promotion agencies and so on.

In contrast to the consumer-orientated fairs New Delhi looks to be the first stop for publishing industry professionals, as Print Week explains.

For publishers, two important features of the Fair are New Delhi Rights Table and CEOSpeak.

The New Delhi Rights Table, told be held on 7 and 8 January 2019, offers B2B matchmaking sessions among publishers in a refreshingly new business ambiance. The unique format of this event enables exhibitors to book their own Rights Table, meet each other, present their products and ideas, and also finalise their interests and agreements for transfer of translation and other rights of books available in English, Hindi and other Indian languages.

On the other hand, CEOSpeak is for the CEOs and senior executives. It is a B2B event over Chairman’s Breakfast organised by National Book Trust, India, and Ficci, on the sidelines of the Fair to share and exchange ideas about Indian and international book trade.

However, Indians have no need to wait until 5 January to find a book fair.

The Guwahati Book Fair which began December 22 doesn’t finish until 2 January.

And the Vijayawada Book Festival kicks off today, New Years Day. While not quite on the scale of New Delhi and Kolkata is still a significant player in the Indian Book fair calendar.

Past Vijayawada fairs have seen book sales of around $500,000 a time.

Also happening in January is the Kerala Literary Festival, which runs for four days from 10 to 13 January and touts itself India’s “second largest cultural gathering.”

This year Wales is guest of honour.

And then of course there’s the Jaipur Literature Festival that runs 24-28 January.

The list is by no means comprehensive – Indians love their book fairs! – but let’s end here with the Chennai Book Fair set for January 4, which as reported here at TNPS last month is preparing or its biggest event yet, extending the duration from 13 to 17 days, and anticipating 2 million visitors.

India’s Chennai Book Fair sets the pace for 2019, extends duration and aims for 2 million visitors in January

In January 2018 the Chennai Book Fair clocked 1.3 million visitors that bought 1.2 million books sold, to the US dollar value of $2.3 million. If the 2 million visitor target is achieved we could see the number and value of books sold soar too.

Not all visitor numbers and sales values will be announced. but it’s safe to say that through January-February 2019 alone some 6-8 million Indians will buy many millions of books to the value of many millions of dollars with no help from Amazon, Flipkart and bookstores, in a country many in the publishing industry regard as an insignificant book market.