“Book fairs help in creating an engaging and positive ambience for fostering trade as well as cultural exchanges”

–Prof. Govind Prasad Sharma, Chairman, National Book Trust, India


Prof. Govind Prasad Sharma, Chairman, National Book Trust, shares his views on India’s participation at various international book fairs and why book fairs are important for trade as well as cultural exchanges. Excerpts.

AABP: As chairman NBT, what are your objectives and how do you plan to achieve them?

Prof. Sharma: The first and foremost priority is to set the agenda of reading culture right in the foreground of Indian educational and intellectual dialogue and policy. We hope to achieve the same by engaging the authors, publishers and readers in a meaningful dialogue through various book promotional programmes.

AABP: How do participation in international book fairs help in book promotions and cultural exchange?

Prof. Sharma: Book promotion and cultural exchange take place on various levels which include translation and copyright exchange, academic and literary dialogues, dissemination of information about Indian literary and cultural landscape through various media platforms etc. and go a long way in creating an engaging and positive ambience for fostering trade as well as cultural exchanges.

AABP: Tell us something about India as the Guest of Honour at the 29th edition of Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2019 (24-30 April)?

Prof Sharma: It was a matter of great pride and honour when India was announced as the Guest Country at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2019 (one of the biggest book fairs of the Emirati world). And for National Book Trust India — being the nodal agency under the Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India — it was an occasion of great pleasure and responsibility to coordinate and execute the Guest Country Presentation. The event concluded successfully with great support from the Embassy of India at UAE, especially from Hon’ble Ambassador Navdeep Suri and his team. The book fair was attended by a large number of people especially the Indian Diaspora settled in various parts of UAE who were happy with the fact that India was the Guest Country and that the magnificently-built INDIA PAVILION reflected the culture and heritage of the country and the various programmes, events and activities further added colour to the presentation. We were constantly congratulated by visitors for the great show and media covered the event extensively in India as well as in UAE. An important aspect of this engagement was the participation of a large number of school children and teachers in various storytelling and illustrators’ workshop programmes.

AABP: Brief us about the major highlights of the presentation at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair?

Prof Sharma: The first and foremost was the design and concept of the INDIA PAVILION aesthetically built over a large area of about 1100 sq.m. designed by National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, our Design Partner for the Guest of Honour Presentations. The Pavilion was visited on the opening day by HH Saif bin Zayed Al Nhyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, UAE; and later on by HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister for Tolerance. The INDIA PAVILION was officially inaugurated with a lamp-lighting ceremony by H.E. Saif Gobash, Undersecretary, DCT Abu Dhabi, along with Ambassador Navdeep Suri, myself and the Director. The ceremony was followed with the release of ten children’s titles translated into Arabic and published by the National Book Trust India.

With the slogan “LET OUR LIVES BE OPEN BOOKS” taken from Mahatma Gandhi’s quotation, the India Guest Country Presentation had lots to offer. The INDIA PAVILION housed 21 Indian publishers from across the country, in addition to Illustrator’s and Author’s Corner, Children’s activity area, Literary programmes and Cultural events stage, Mahatma Gandhi installation, Indian Books Rights’ Exchange Corner and Catalogue Showcase, Reading spaces display, Indian Banyan Tree installation highlighting the plurality and diversity of Indian languages, their origins, and their journey towards the written form. Also housed in the INDIA PAVILION were the Indian Food corner, and the Business club.

The Guest Country Presentation had various literary events, children’s activities and other programmes being held throughout the duration of the book fair, including various business sessions like India and Arab/Emirati Round Table conferences. The book fair saw huge sales of Indian books, and many translation agreements and copyright exchanges taking place between Indian publishers in the INDIA PAVILION and the Arab publishers.

AABP: Tell us about the books translated in Arabic?

Prof. Sharma: It is a pre-curser to augment the exchange of translation rights in the particular book fair, paving way for other publishers to start business as well. As for Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2019, the NBT’s ten children’s titles translated into Arabic included: Stories from Bapu’s Life (Anecdotes about Mahatma Gandhi), Rabindranath Tagore’s Chhutti (Holidays have Come), Goa – A Story of Wonderland, This is My Story, The Rainbow, Name That Animal, Sheela and Leela, The Whole Wide World, One Day…and My Umma’s Sari.

AABP: Who were the delegates at the fair?

Prof. Sharma: A strong delegation of nearly 100 delegates comprising of authors, children writers, science communicators, artists, CMDs, Directors, senior publishing professionals of 21 publishing houses were part of the India Guest Country Presentation at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2019. Some of the important delegates included Pandit Birju Maharaj, Prof. Manoj Das, Madhav Kaushik (Vice-President, Sahitya Akademi), Birad Rajaram Yagnik, Preeti Shenoy, Divik Ramesh, Sarjoo Katkar, P Sivakami, Rakshanda Jalil, Indu Menon, Prof. Zikrur Rahman, S. Saradakutty, Surjit Patar, Amish Tripathi, Lalit Behari Goswami, Anjana Chattopadhyay, Nand Kishore Pandey, Director Kendriya Hindi Sansthan, Agra, Aquil Ahmad, Director, NCPUL, Viky Arya, Ramesh Mittal, Chairman, CAPEXIL and President, FIP, A K Sinha, Director, IGNCA, Arvind C Ranade of Vigyan Prasar, Rajendra Bhatt, Director, Publications Division, Prof. M Siraj Anwar of NCERT, Harpreet Singh, Jasbeer Jassi, Kutle Khan and Shridhar Paradhkar.

AABP: What are your plans for the Mexico Book Fair and Paris Book Fair?

Prof. Sharma: We are working on an even better showcase of the contemporary INDIA PAVILION at Mexico and France, which is being worked upon in consultation with our Design Partner – the NID Ahmedabad. In addition, we are closely working with the Embassy of India at Mexico and France for better coordination and successful Guest Country Presentation at both the international book fairs. Since NBT works as per its mandate of ‘Promotion of Indian Books Abroad’, we are looking at the various business opportunities for all Indian publishers at both the book fairs in addition to promotion and showcasing of rich Indian publishing industry — the books in its various genres and languages; the contemporary India with its promise of development, as also to showcase the Indian writers/authors, artists, performers, literary aspects, science and technology, popular science communication, growing Indian children’s literature and much more!

AABP: What are your views on reading habit in India?

Prof Sharma: The habit of reading in India, I would say, has increased since the last few years. Although the common belief is totally opposite to this idea but this in fact is the truth. Despite the technological revolution, the widespread use of smart phones and tablets and kindle and what not, the printed version is still sought by readers whether it is the newspapers, the magazines or the good old books. In all our book fairs, especially the annual New Delhi World Book Fair, the footfall of book lovers is rising year per year, and the business that the publishers are able to do in these fairs is the reason they like to participate with us for all our book fairs.

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