In February 2004, the Capital's bookish denizens made a beeline for the booklover's Mecca - The International Book Fair 2004. The Fair, a regular biannual affair on Delhi's event calendar, draws visitors from all ages and walks of life.
The event was a testing ground for Pehel's concept of publishing for the rural poor. As far as the mandate of reaching out to the marginalised through our low-cost, easy-to-read books goes, the experience at Pragati Maidan, one of Delhi's upscale locations, was perhaps not ideal. We received many interested queries and offers for volunteering help from the Fair's regulars, but buyers were few.
But the experience with other book fairs in the country was no better. At book fairs in Gorakhpur (18th to 26th March, 2004) and Unnav (27th March to 3rd April, 2004), an event for small-scale, vernacular publishers, the turnout was poor, a direct result of the gaps in organisation and publicity.
This led us to question the validity of the Book Fair culture in general in promoting a reading culture. How effective are they, especially for those who do not ordinarily have access to books?