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A damp affair of a Book Fair

  • Published at 04:12 pm April 11th, 2021
Amar Ekushey Boi Mela
Youngsters sit and chat in front of the Bangla Academy book stall on the second last day of the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela on Sunday, April 11, 2021 Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The Book Fair is set to end on Monday, two days ahead of schedule

The Amar Ekushey Book Fair made history this year since it was held from March to April, instead of February, the month of the Language Movement, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite this, the Book Fair was cut short due to the jump in coronavirus cases since March and is scheduled to end on Monday – after 26 days – due to the ongoing lockdown. The fair also saw lower turnout of new books, compared to the last couple of years.

As many as 2,576 new books were published during the fair as of Sunday and the highest 199 new books appeared on April 2. It is assumed that the fair is expected to cross the new-book count of over 3,000-mark by Monday.

The publishers say they incurred insurmountable losses this year.

While showing an overview of this year’s sale, Likhan Mia, a Bangla Academy executive said that their stalls had sold books worth Tk1,50,000 a day in the previous years.

But the sale has dropped to only Tk40,000 on average this year. “Usually the sales reach the highest on February 21, but it did not happen this time as the fair kicked off from March 18 this year,” Likhan added.

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“Although we did get a national holiday – March 26, the Independence Day – we did not see enough crowds. The restrictions on movement imposed from April 5 also barred the book lovers coming to the fair,” he said.

According to the Bangla Academy authorities, books worth Tk82 crore were sold in 2020. Before that, the total sale from the fair amounted to Tk80 crore in 2019, Tk70.5 crore in 2018, Tk65.4 crore in 2017, and Tk 40.5 crore in 2016.

This year, half of the sales target – compared to last year – will not be met, according to several publishers and authors. “The cost of stall installations and maintenance will not be met by this year’s earnings,” said an author, Al Masud.

Poetry books dominate

Till date, poetry books dominated the list of new books with 869. As many as 401 novels and 333 story books arrived in the fair, out of the 2,576 new books until yesterday.

In 2020, some 4,919 new books hit the fair, breaking all previous records. It was 4,685 in 2019; 4,591 in 2018; 3,646 in 2017; and 3,444 in 2016.

Different publishing houses got different best seller books this year. Prothoma and Baatighar publications sold Protinayak and Laal Sontrash the most, by the same author, Mohiuddin Ahmad.

Tamrolipi’s sales associate claimed that they were going to get the best seller book recognition this year – English vocabulary book written by web-based celebrity English tutor Munzereen Shahid, followed by her spoken English book.

Book lovers did not really get to indulge and enjoy the fair this season amid uncertainty and fear of sudden shutdown. After facing many struggles such as indecisions on whether to hold the fair or not, or organize it virtually, the fair finally started under the hot weather of March.

This year the Book Fair premises were almost double (15,00,000 sq-ft) than last year (7,50,500 sq-ft), to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

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