The International Kolkata Book Fair (IKBF), the largest one of its kind in the world, has become the latest victim of demonetisation.
Officials of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, which organises the show, warned that the event this time may see a 50 per cent drop in the number of new and old Bengali titles and fewer Bengali publishers. The 41st edition of the fair will be held at the Milan Mela ground, opposite Science City off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, from January 25 to February 5.
“Bengali publishers are printing just 50 per cent of the new books and reprinting around 20 per cent of the existing and old ones. More than English and other foreign language publishers, these small-scale Bengali book publishers, who make up 50 per cent of the stalls at the fair, are the worst hit by cash crunch. This is largely because they make most, if not all, their payments in cash and most of their employees don’t have bank accounts and depend on daily wages,” said Tridib Kumar Chatterjee, the honorary secretary of the Guild.
Globally speaking, the IKBF is the biggest book fair in terms of footfall. It had over 2 million visitors last time and sales exceeded Rs 25 crore. The theme country this time is Costa Rica.
HT had earlier reported that Bengal’s publishing industry had taken a big hit after the announcement of demonetisation and sales were headed for a steep fall. There were apprehensions that if the situation did not improve by the end of December, the crisis would hit the string of book fairs held across the state in the first two-three months of the year, including the Kolkata Book Fair.
Under the circumstances, the Guild is now concentrating on different modes of e-payments, including ATMs, card-swipe machines and e-wallets. State Bank of India has been requested to deploy around 14 mobile ATMs at the fair. But the Guild and the publishers are keeping their fingers crossed on connectivity and server problems, especially during peak hours.
However, one good piece of news around all the monetary gloom is that there will be a greater participation of publishers from south Indian states at the fair this time.