Kolkata Book Fair
The Kolkata Book Fair (Old name: Calcutta Book Fair in English, and officially Kolkata Boimela or Kolkata Pustakmela in romanized Bengali, Bengali: (কলকাতা বইমেলা বা কলকাতা পুস্তকমেলা) is a winter fair in Kolkata. It is a unique book fair in the sense of not being a trade fair - the book fair is primarily for the general public rather than whole-sale distributors. It is the world's largest non-trade book fair, Asia's largest book fair and the most attended book fair in the world. It is the world's third largest annual conglomeration of books after the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair. Many Kolkatans consider the book fair an inherent part of Kolkata, and instances of people visiting the fair every day during its duration is not uncommon. The fair also has a typical fairground experience with a book flavour - with the presence of picnickers, singer-songwriters, and candy floss vendors on the fair premises. With a total footfall of over 2 million people, it is world's largest book fair by attendance.
The popularity of the Kolkata Book Fair was seminal in India being nominated the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2006, according to the Frankfurt Book Fair organizers. The book fair has been celebrated in theatre, literature, songs and limericks in Kolkata.
- 1 Inception
- 2 Duration
- 3 Venue
- 4 Kolkata Book Fair 2013
- 5 Kolkata Book Fair 2012
- 6 Kolkata Book Fair 2011
- 7 Kolkata Book Fair 2010
- 8 Kolkata Book Fair 2009
- 9 Kolkata Book Fair 2008
- 10 Controversy over the 2007 fair
- 11 Participants
- 12 Themes
- 13 Dedicated enclaves
- 14 Events
- 15 Propaganda
- 16 Problems and Solutions
- 17 Recent Statistics
- 18 Pictures Gallery
- 19 See also
- 20 References
- 21 External links
The book fair was started on a small scale in 1976 by the Kolkata Publishers' and Booksellers' Guild. The book fair was started to meet the growing public demand for books, but a relative lack of bookshops in Even though the country now has several large bookshops like Landmark, Starmark, Crossword Bookstores, and The Oxford Bookstore, beside the book shop district of College Street, the tradition persists and Calcutta Book Fair is growing every year.
The fair traditionally starts on the last Wednesday of January, and ends on the first or second Sunday of February (to ensure that the duration is always 12 days). It was initially a week-long event but popular demand forced authorities to extend the duration to 12 days in 2005. Even though there is usually an extended holiday in Calcutta during the period of 23 January (Subhas Chandra Bose's birthday) to 26 January (Republic Day of India) the fair is held at the beginning of February to overlap with the payday of most Kolkatans.
The fair typically overlaps with the Hindu festival of Saraswati Puja. Saraswati is the Goddess of Learning, and hence many Hindu households observe the day by worshiping books on that day and not touching books for any other purpose. This practice causes a lower footfall on the corresponding day in the book fair.
Since year 2009, the fair is being held in its new location at "Milan Mela" near Science City on E.M.Bypass. The initial apprehension about reduced attendance at the new site has been proven wrong. Millions had visited the book fair in 2009.
The fair used to be held on the Maidan, Kolkata's large urban park. It was being held at the Park Street end of the Maidan, due to a better road and rail network, having moved there from the other end of Maidan in 1991.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Kolkata played host to two annual book fairs, one by the Kolkata Publishers' and Booksellers' Guild, and one by the Government of West Bengal - the Grontho Mela ('Grontho' is archaic Bengali word for book). 'Grontho Mela' used to be held in late December and continued until early January, and was the showcase for books published by Government-run publishing houses. While this was initially a rival commercial venture, the unprecedented growth of the 'Kolkata Book Fair' caused the Government of West Bengal to merge the two book fairs in 1992.
Conservation problems for the Victoria Memorial include high dust pollution, which is often accentuated by public fairs on the Maidan. The Kolkata High Court's 2004 decision to move all public fairs to the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass has not been greeted with enthusiasm by fair organizers due to the present location being in the heart of Kolkata, and being very well serviced by public transport. The book fair and a few other fairs, however, were granted special permission by the Kolkata High Court to continue holding the fair on the Maidan in 2005 and 2006. However, the choice of Maidan as the annual venue for the book fair is no longer certain.
A demand for a permanent round-the-year indoor space for the fair, typically comprising only some of the stalls, had been given by the fair authorities to the Government of West Bengal. The former Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, in a statement in 2005, had agreed to this request but no progress has been made on this front.
However, many Kolkatans feel that the fair will lose its ambience if it is held indoors or away from the Maidan. After a yearlong uncertainty, the world's largest non-trade book fair, has settled for Park Circus Maidan to host the literary carnival in 2008.
However, organisers of Asia's biggest book fair are still apprehensive, keeping in mind the disgrace in January 2007 when the Kolkata High Court did not allow them to host the fair at the Maidan, a vast stretch of green in the heart of the city, on environmental ground. The Publishers and Booksellers Guild had to shift the most-awaited cultural event to Salt Lake in 2007 after the city's green brigade won a legal battle to block the fair at the Maidan.
Kolkata Book Fair 2013
The 37th International Kolkata Book Fair 2013 was inaugurated on 26 January 2013 and stayed operational from 30 January to 10 February 2013. The Focal theme this year was:BANGLADESH. Almost 1.9 million book lovers visited this fair.
Kolkata Book Fair 2012
The 36th International Kolkata Book Fair 2012 flagged off on 25 January 2012 and will be operational till 5 February 2013. The Focal theme this year was: Italy. West Bengal's newly appointed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the Kolkata book fair on 24 January 2012 at 4:30pm. This year there are many fire prevention measures are taken, considering the recent fire incidents in Kolkata like the AMRI Hospital tragedy.
On 30 January 2012, In a bizarre move, the Kolkata Book Fair authorities said they switched off power during an interaction of Pakistan cricket and politician Imran Khan with media on Monday because the press meet that was to end in five minutes had stretched nearly 45 minutes. According to TV footage, the address of Imran to media came to an end abruptly as the power was switched off. There could have been utter chaos or security problem owing to the action of the Book Fair authorities. "We did switch off power because the next programme could not be started. So we were forced to do so," Kolkata Book Fair organizer's top official Tridib Chatterjee said to a local TV news channel
Kolkata Book Fair 2011
Almost 1.7 million book lovers visited in 12 days in the 35th International Kolkata Book Fair. It was again held at Milan Mela, next to Science City, EM Bypass.
Kolkata Book Fair 2010
Mexico has been selected the focal theme country for the 2010 Book Fair.
Kolkata Book Fair 2009
Scotland was selected the focal theme country for the 2009 Book Fair.
Kolkata Book Fair 2008
The United States of America was elected as the focal theme country for the 2008 Book Fair and was given a pavilion to showcase its books and publishers. Also, a US-Kolkata Literary Exchange (USKLE) has been created to organize this event with the consulate general of the United States of America in Kolkata. The Kolkata Book Fair took place 30 January to 10 February 2008.
Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa lead the delegation to the 2008 Kolkata Book Fair. Joining him on the board of advisers were several US poet laureates, including Rita Dove and Donald Hall.
Henry V Jardine, the United States Consul General in Kolkata said, "With the United States as the 'Theme Country' this year, the Consulate along with other organizations will work to bring a range of great programs, with prominent authors, artists, and academics. We will have a full schedule of events throughout the Fair time to highlight the life, culture, literature and arts of the United States. The Kolkata-based American Library will provide a display of some of its many books, periodicals and electronic media that are available for students, academics, or anyone wanting access to the Library’s collection. Also, our office of the U.S. Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) will conduct programs for prospective students interested in studying in the United States. USEFI has done such an impressive job over the last few years in promoting United States schools and universities that Indian students now represent the largest number of foreign students in the United States. “SPAN” Magazine, which is a popular source of information on the close Indo-U.S. relationship, will also have representatives present and a display to highlight its more fascinating articles about shared Indian and American experiences."
Less than 24 hours before its inauguration, Kolkata High Court banned the 33rd Kolkata Book Fair from being held on the Park Circus Maidan on environmental grounds. The fair was to be held from 29 January to 10 February. The court verdict is a culmination of a long-drawn battle between the environmentalists and the state on holding fairs at the Maidan, close to Victoria Memorial. In November 2003, the state had assured the court all fairs would be shifted from the Maidan and a permanent complex would come up on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
Controversy over the 2007 fair
The 2007 fair attracted a lot of controversy over the Kolkata High Court decision banning fairs on the Maidan. The court granted the fair special permission for the year of 2005, and permission for "one last time" in the year 2006 to be held at Maidan, which has been the venue of the fair for the last 31 years. The Kolkata Book Fair was the only fair granted special permission in 2006. Despite the two years given to the fair organizers to find alternative venues, no progress was made till 2007, mainly due to the fact that Kolkata lacks a large convention center with modern facilities. An objection on the grounds of environmental damage was raised for the 2007 fair and it has drawn protest from various independent groups like the Save the Maidan. campaign. The High Court has forbidden Guild to hold the fair on Maidan.
A large part of the intellectuals, authors, editors, journalists and book lovers, including Sunil Gangopadhyay, Shirshendu Bandyopadhyay, Samaresh Majumder, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Buddhadev Guha, Mrinal Sen, the Mayor of Kolkata, turned up at the Maidan venue on 31 January, the day of the inauguration of the fair, to protest the Kolkata High Court order banning the fair, and to symbolically inaugurate the Kolkata Book Fair. This was to show that the spirit of people supporting the fair cannot be killed.
The rescheduled Book Fair was held in Salt Lake City, a place located at the outskirts of Kolkata from 9 February up to 25 February. With lesser space and lesser footfall, the 2007 fair was a moderate success at best. 2009 book fair at Milan Mela Maidan was a gala success. The figures published by the organizing committee indicates that.
In 2010 Inauguration Honorable Chief Minister of West Bengal Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya remarked
Some people are against the Book Fair in the name of environment.
Book fair is sponsored by publishers guild which is a business forum.
Most bookstalls in the book fair keep English and Bengali books. Popular book stalls include Ananda Publishers, Dey's Publishing, Deb Sahitya Kutir, and Mitra Ghosh Publishers,Pratibhas, Punashcha, Sishu Sahitya Samsad, Deep Prakashan, Tuli Kalam, Bhasha o Sahitya, Maondol Book House, Saraswato Library - among Bengali language book shops and Timely Books, Seagull Books, Rupa & Co., Penguin India, Tata Mcgraw-Hill - among English language book shops.
The fair also has diplomatic mission stalls, which typically display and sell books of their country. The British Council, United States Information Service, and Alliance française typically host stalls. The European Union, Bangladesh and several Latin American embassies have hosted stalls in the recent years.
In 2007 for the first time Romania is included among the participants. Teodora Enache, one of the best jazz artists in Romania, will be as well 'present' through her music.
Calcutta institutions, which have their own press or publishing house typically host stalls - including the Indian Museum, Asiatic Society, survey institutes like Zoological Survey of India, Botanical Survey of India, Geological Survey of India, and universities like University of Calcutta, Jadavpur University and Rabindra Bharati University.
Other notable annual stalls include:
- The famous Santiniketan-based used bookseller Subarnarekha
- A stall hosted by the famous Kolkata artist Rathin Mitra, featuring his work. Rathin Mitra is famous for his panoramas of Kolkata
- The food stall of BenFish (Bengal Fisheries) typically attracts more customers than most bookshops
The initial rule that only publishers, and not institutions which just sold or distributed books but did not publish any books, can participate in the fair has been waved in the 2000s. This rule often forced small distributors to bring out a token publication just to be able to participate in the fair.
Starting from the 1990s, the book fair has been themed annually, typically on a country - on the lines of the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The theme country embassy is typically given a stall at the fairground centre, and many book shops theme their collections based on the fair theme. The temporary gates of the fair are designed according to the theme, on the basis of a design competition among Kolkata students.
|2008||USA (**Fair Postponed)|
Starting from 2005, one of the newest participating international pavilions is named the 'guest of honour', and is a kind of secondary theme of the fair. Australia was the guest of honour for 2007.
'Italy' to be the theme for Kolkata Book Fair 2012 as declared by Publishers and Booksellers Guild, Kolkata. It will be taken place from 25 January to 6 February 2012.
- All first editions of books which are released in the fair are housed in a special release gallery.
- The Book Fair has been the annual show for Bengali little magazines since the inception of the fair. The little magazines are now housed in a special dedicated section in the fair.
- From the 1990s, the Kolkata Book Fair also has a special section for budding artists, authors, poets and painters. It is called Montmartre after the Montmartre in Paris. It typically has poetry recitals, and live face sketching for patrons by upcoming artists.
- The fair also has a special children's section starting from the 2000s.
- Following the devastating fire of 1997, the food stalls have also shared a common enclave.
A number of events are held in conjunction with the book fair.
- A number of book signings and book releases with first edition distributions are held in conjunction with the fair, due to the high visibility of the fair
- A series of seminars and talks by literati
- Competitive events for school children like essay writing and trivia sessions
- The Walk for Books to raise money for child literacy programs
- Theme country events, including a talk by the Chief Guest
- The Asoke Kumar Sarkar Memorial Lecture, the annual lecture delivered since 1984 by noted publishers and educators like W. Bradford Wiley
- The Book Bazaar, the auction held on the last day of the fair to auction off remainder stock, has been discontinued
The Kolkata Book Fair attracts a lot of people looking for free propaganda and idea promotion. The fair does have its share of fair and useful propaganda, and relief fund raisers, along the lines of the Frankfurt Book Fair protest movement against the official German spelling reforms.
Problems and Solutions
The biggest problem the book fair faces are the huge crowds which visit the fair - crowd and litter control are a major issue at the fair.
An associated problem is dust pollution, and resulting dust allergy and depreciation of exhibited books due to shopsoiling. The grass is usually trodden bare in the first few days, leaving the top soil dry and prone to erosion. Watering is typically used to control the problem, but it makes the grounds muddy.
Traffic and parking problems during fair days usually make the visit steeped in logistics. Most Kolkatans prefer to use public transport like the Kolkata Metro Railway and bus service, which have extended schedules during fair days.
A large fire in 1997 destroyed over one third of the fair, burnt over 100,000 books and caused the death of a visitor (Jiten Seal)by heart attack brought on by the ensuing stampede. Stricter fire laws, construction laws, and prohibition of open flames in the fair ground were instituted in the wake of the disaster and insurance for stall holders was made compulsory. A massive downpour in 1998 also resulted in a lot of book damage, but the insurance laws made sure that stall owners did not suffer financial damage. The popularity of the fair has continued to grow despite these two setbacks. In both cases, the fair recovered and continued after a damage repair break.
Another problem due to the huge crowds is shoplifting. Typically, every stall has its own security - who control traffic flow into the stall. Such measures often lead to long and winding queues in front of the more popular stalls.
The 2005 Kolkata Book Fair was held over an area of 800,000 sq.ft., with a stall cover area of 200,000 sq.ft.. 535 book stalls took part in the fair. Footfall recorded was over 14 lakhs. Single day sales on the final day exceeded Rs.2 million. In 2010 Kolkata book fair was held at Milan Mela Prangan on an area of 75,330 sq.mt.
- Anusuya Basu; Fair’s first pullout;The Telegraph, 20 January 2007; Kolkata
- people are against Kolkata Book Fair: Buddhadeb
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