Publishers fear they will not be able to recoup investment, let alone make profit
Weekends during the month-long Amar Ekushey Book Fair are usually festive days for children, especially due to the program of Shishu Prohor (special hours dedicated to children).
But not this year. The program was cancelled owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the last few years, the book fair had been a great source of entertainment for children as they visited the Shishu Chattar (children’s zone) in droves on the east side of Suhrawardy Udyan.
Even last year, children visiting the book fair had been welcomed by popular characters of Sisimpur (the Bangladeshi version of the popular children's television show Sesame Street) at the Shishu Chattar. One could clearly see the excitement in their eyes as they saw Halum, Iqri and Tuktuki perform skits during Shishu Prohor.
This year, the Shishu Chattar has remained empty. There were hardly any visitors, resulting in poor sales.
Nusrat Jahan Nowshin, sales representative of Laboni Prokashoni, said not a single book had been sold until around 12noon on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Saiful Islam, a representative of Dhaka Comics, said: “Our comics are loved by children … They throng our stall to buy our books. But this year they have not started coming yet.”
Imran Hossain of Sisimpur Publication said: “Kids like to buy books, but the main attraction was our Shishu Prohor program.”
|The program was cancelled this year due to the pandemic, which had adversely affected all the publishing houses of the children’s zone, added Imran Hossain.
“We made our stalls smaller this year as we felt that sales would be low, but we did not think they would be this low,” he said.
Publishers were concerned that they would not be able to cover such minimum expenses as stall rents and staff salaries.
They attributed the lack of visitors to the Covid-19 situation, political instability and the book fair not being held during the usual festive occasions as Pahela Falgun and Valentine’s Day.
Laboni Hossain, publisher of Laboni Prokashoni, said: “We will not be able to recoup the money we have spent to participate on this year’s fair.”
“I do not think the children’s zone was given enough attention this time around. It was supposed to have been arranged in a way that kids enjoyed,” she added.
The Mayurpankhi Prokashoni publisher said their art books were exceedingly popular among children. “However, this year, the attendance of children is very low and as a result, the publishing houses of the children’s zone are extremely disheartened.”
The bibliophiles among children are disappointed by the situation as well.
Had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic, Sadman Sakib, a seventh-grader who loves reading adventure fiction, would have visited this year’s book fair multiple times with his parents to pick and buy books he loves at leisure.
This year, instead of browsing through books among a crowd of children, he was making a list of books he wanted to buy with the help of the internet, as his parents would only take him to the fair once.