“Book fairs facilitate readers to discover new books”

Says E N Nandakumar, President, Antharashtra Pusthakotsava Samithi, Kochi.

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Antharashtra Pusthakotsava Samithi, Kochi, is a registered charitable society, established to promote books, reading, writing and quality literary activities. The Samithi has been organizing the Kochi International Book Festival, the largest Book Fair in Kerala, since the last 23 years, and is also active in the field of education, through various interventions, for over two decades. Here, E N Nandakumar, President, Antharashtra Pusthakotsava Samithi and Exe. Member, National Book Trust, India, shares more about the same.

Importance of book fairs…

“Book fairs facilitate readers to discover new books, which is not available elsewhere in such magnitude. Visitors also love the physical contact with books and people, the festival ambience and experience, participatory and interactive forums, face to face meetings with authors, chance contact with a celebrity during his casual visit, etc. Such experiences which, the readers would cherish are not available online,” shares E N Nandakumar.

“Besides, cultural programmes give a festival atmosphere to the Bookfest. Hundreds of art lovers and people of all walks of life throng the pavilion in large numbers and it quite often helped to boost the sale,” he adds.

On Kochi International Book Festival…

“Our major Bookfest is held in December every year. The Bookfest 2020 had to be cancelled and the Bookfest 2021 also is unlikely to take place, thanks to the grave situation originated from Covid – 19. We also used to run a parallel Litfest for 5 days. During the pandemic, we have been regularly conducting online programmes and discussions featuring authors and Books. But, no book fairs or book sales in this time,” he adds.

On online book fairs…

“The existing online book fair models are not successful. The organizers, by and large, could not reach visitors. There was lack of awareness among readers. Most exhibitors could not sell even a single book. The visitors to some virtual stalls were in single digit numbers. Small publishers, who could not afford the stall rent, did not participate.,” he adds.

Future ahead…

“Post pandemic, we expect book fairs to be same as before, if the economic conditions do not undergo much change. The readers would love to have physical contact with the books before they buy,” he tells.

“Book fairs, such as ours, used to promote small and marginalized publishers, especially in the regional languages whose books could not be sold otherwise. Readers, most often come to know of such books through Book fairs, as these publishers have no ad budget or online facilities. But, online Litfests can succeed even though they are likely to miss their glamour. Since we do both, we can have a hybrid model, with online Litfest and an offline Book fair,” concludes Nandakumar.

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