“The virtual New Delhi World Book Fair will connect people across the globe”

says Shri Yuvraj Malik, Director, National Book Trust, India in conversation with All About Book Publishing. The fair will have a complete 360 degree experience, with the ease of browsing and buying books, e-visiting stalls, e-meeting exhibitors, along with the regular NDWBF literary events, activities for children, Theme Pavilion, and much more.

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The New Delhi World Book Fair 2021 Virtual Edition will be held from March 6-9, 2021. Here, Shri Yuvraj Malik, Director, National Book Trust, India shares what exhibitors, authors, publishers and book lovers can expect.

AABP: The NDWBF is being organised virtually. Tell us more about it.

Shri Malik: The pandemic has thrown challenges at us, yet we all have faced them and come up with better solutions. The New Delhi World Book Fair is a popular brand and an annual calendar event. Youth and book lovers from across the globe look forward to a festival of books and literary events in Delhi with us. National Book Trust India has risen up to keep up with our annual feature and this year the NDWBF goes VIRTUAL. The tentative dates of NDWBF 2021 – Virtual Edition are from March 6-9, 2021. It will be a 2D platform having a complete 360 degree experience. We have tried to give it the feel of a real fair, with the ease of browsing and buying books, e-visiting stalls, e-meeting exhibitors, along with the regular NDWBF literary events, activities for children, Theme Pavilion, etc.

AABP: What are the challenges or intricacies for NBT to organise a book fair in such format?

Shri Malik: Although every event – whether physical or virtual – has its challenges, yet there is a solution for every problem. We have got the support from the best IT and virtual exhibition platform team, and we are working with them to make the visit of the exhibitors and the visitors a smooth ride. I would also say that every problem has a bright side to it as well. The virtual fair will help people across the globe to connect with us virtually, which in physical fair, at times, proves to be a challenge because of travel, logistics, visa, other concurrent physical events, etc.

AABP: What will be the ‘theme of the fair’ this year?

Shri Malik: National Book Policy launched by the Government of India would be the theme of the fair this year. The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), which was approved by the Union Cabinet of India on July 29, outlines the vision of India’s new education system. The policy is a comprehensive framework for elementary education to higher education as well as vocational training in both rural and urban India. The policy aims to transform India’s education system, bringing it at par with the international level and yet keeping the Indian knowledge system at its core.

The e-Theme Pavilion at the NDWBF 2021-VE, will have programmes, discussions, book exhibit on education and pedagogy, and much more.

AABP: How many exhibitors have so far been registered for the virtual book fair?

Shri Malik: Many exhibitors have booked and others are in the process of booking for the fair. We are expecting a large turnout from our international fraternity as well, as the participation on a virtual platform can take people places without having to travel distances physically.

AABP: Tell us about the interactive sessions at ‘Author’s Corner’ and such activities?

Shri Malik: The regular favourites of the visitors viz. Authors’ Corners, Lekhak Manch, Children’s Pavilion, International Events Corners, will all be there in their e-format.

Shri Yuvraj Malik, Director, National Book Trust
Shri Yuvraj Malik, Director, National Book Trust

AABP: Tell us about Children’s Corner at the fair.

Shri Malik: Last year, when I went around the New Delhi World Book Fair, I realised that there was no dedicated place where Child Authors could voice themselves as budding writers and share their experiences as a budding writer. Hence this year we will have an E-Children’s Author’s Corner for budding child writers of the country, where children will speak, children will moderate and children will interact.

AABP: How will the fair inspire young readers and promote reading habits among children?

Shri Malik: Book fairs create an environment that inherently promotes reading habits as the readers are exposed to a diverse collection of books and reading material spanning genres and languages. The various activities and discussions that will be organised, especially the Children’s Corner, will help young readers feel like they are a part of a like-minded community.

AABP: What are the salient features of the virtual NDWBF 2021 for the exhibitors and the visitors?

Shri Malik: The virtual platform is accessible 24×7, with a very simple login process. Exhibitors can choose from three kinds of stalls, and upload books with covers anywhere from 60 to 100 titles. Rest of the books can be put up as a catalogue on their respective stalls. Each stall will have a calendar schedule for trade visitors or general visitors to fix a business meeting or a general query about their book stall. All social media handles of the exhibitor will be linked on their stall itself, in addition to their website and catalogue link. With a logistics partner on-board and a payment gateway integration, the books selected from each exhibitor will reach the respective buyers in time. The exhibitors will also have their personal dashboard to check daily analytics.

For the visitors, a simple click takes them to the platform after login. They can browse and buy books of their choice. Attend events. Move around in the lobby area. Fill up their cart. And then buy books of their choice.

The virtual platform is accessible 24×7, with a very simple login process. Exhibitors can choose from three kinds of stalls, and upload books with covers anywhere from 60 to 100 titles. Rest of the books can be put up as a catalogue on their respective stalls.”

AABP: Do advice us on the importance of such a book fair in these unprecedented times.

Shri Malik: In the current situation where there is so much uncertainty and curtailment on social gatherings, book fairs and reading books in general will provide creative solutions to life challenges and help people cope with the stress. Reading, just like any physical exercise, is a workout for the brain. It improves memory, concentration and mood. Reading also helps deal with isolation, by making the reader feel connected with other worlds. This is especially relevant in the pandemic.

AABP: What is your ‘goodwill message’ to uplift the spirit of book lovers and publishers?

Shri Malik: Like any other sphere of life, these have been trying times for the publishing industry, too. However publishers have been quick to adapt to the digital format. Stories, biographies and other kinds of books are something people innately find comfort in and as people are spending more time indoors they are rediscovering their taste for reading.

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