“Tamil publishing industry thrives on book fairs”
Says G Olivannan, Vice President, BAPASI and publisher of Emerald Publishers.
Chennai Book Fair is an annual book fair organized in Chennai, India by the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI). The fair has completed 44 years and typically lasts for about two weeks during the New Year-Pongal season.
The Chennai Book Fair is the second largest book fair in the country. All major Tamil and English publishing houses participate in this fair. “In 2020, the fair had over 800 stalls representing most major publishing companies in India and was held for 13 days, drawing over 1.2 million visitors,” tells G Olivannan, Vice President, BAPASI and CEO of Emerald Publishers.
“A physical fair was held in February 2021, which had about 700 exhibitors attracting around 7 lakhs visitors. The fair is a B2C event where the main focus is to buy books, be an interaction point for new authors with publishers, and a host of cultural events,” he adds.
“Exhibitors constitute 75% Tamil publishers and rest from pan India. We plan to have an international audience to promote translations and right sales as there is a large diaspora of Tamil speaking people internationally,” he adds.
“Tamil Nadu Government has passed a G.O. to offer us Rs. 75 lacs every year to conduct Chennai Book Fair. With the Madras Library Act, every year the Tamil Nadu government buys books from publisher. Our Hon’ble Chief Minister Thiru M.K. Stalin believes in gifting books and not bouquets and shawls, this has become a norm now,” he shares.
The government has promoted reading by giving a venue for a permanent fair at Egmore Museum Complex. It is adjacent to Connemara Library, which is a repository of centuries-old publications, wherein lie some of the most respected works and collections in the country. This is manged by the BAPASI like a store with 132 racks where in publishers rent the stack on a yearly basis. The customers buy the books and the association at the end of the month settles payments with respective publisher. Currently the BAPASI is working on an online book store to facilitate sales and counter online competitors, the same will be ready by Oct 2021.
On online book fairs…
“The online book fairs are making a huge effort and some Tamil publishers participated in the Frankfurt Book Fair 2020 and New Delhi World Book Fair 2021, but I feel the physical book fairs are here to stay,” he says.
“I feel Tamil publishing industry thrives on book fairs; we have 30 -40 book fairs in Tamil Nadu and each fair runs for two weekends which is very important, the main being fairs in Chennai, Erode, Coimbatore and Madurai,” he adds.