The upcoming Amar Ekushey Book Fair is likely to see a smaller number of books as publishers are planning to print fewer copies to avert losses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Publishers fear a fall in the sale of books this time for low presence of visitors due to the closure of educational institutions, hot weather and the possibility of rain during the book fair.The book fair is scheduled to begin on March 18 on the Bangla Academy premises and at nearby Suhrawardy Udyan in the capital.
President of Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh Farid Ahmed thinks the number of newly published books will be reduced this year.
“Publishers need a good amount of money to bring quality books but many of them are struggling to manage money to invest in new books as they couldn’t do much business over the last one year,” he told the Daily Sun.
Publishing industry insiders say they had a special plan over the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of the country’s independence.
But they could not implement the plan due to coronavirus pandemic and unusual schedule of this year’s book fair, they said, claiming that the fair might not attract much visitors.
The publishers working round the clock in their offices and different printing presses in Bangla Bazar and other areas of the capital say they are skeptical about their business in the forthcoming fair.According to a weather report, it may heavily rain in March and April this year. Even when the book fair was organised in February in the past, stall owners had to count huge losses due to heavy pre-monsoon showers and thunderstorms in several years.
About the probable bad weather, Farid, also the owner of Somoy Prakashan, said, “We’ll take all necessary precautions as we’re already aware of it.”
Some publishers believe that the book fair could attract a good number of readers if educational institutions open by this time.
Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of Adorn Publication Syed Zakir Hossain said, “Students of different educational institutions bring life to the book fair. The fair will see a smaller number of visitors as educational institutions might remain closed during the fair. Besides, there’s a possibility of excessive heat and rain.”
“Actually, we need more small book fairs in different months of the year across the country. But who will arrange those? Sometimes it seems to me that the country’s publishing industry has no guardian,” he added.
Publishers of creative books mainly depend on the sale at the Amar Ekushey Book Fair and they bring most books during the month-long book festival.
Especially, owners of the small publishing houses who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic find no way other than taking part in the fair with all possible limitations and odds.
Publisher of Annoy Prakash Humayun Kabir Dhali said, “Our business has been facing a severe crisis since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country. We’re aware of the possible impediments ahead but we have no alternative.”
A number of publishing houses have decided not to join this year’s book fair as they think attending the fair will cause huge losses for them.
Publisher of Shrabon Prokashoni Robin Ahsan said, “We’ve already brought a number of new books and are selling those through mobile vans. Besides, we’re receiving orders online. I see no reason to participate in this year’s book fair.”
“Why the readers will visit the fair ignoring heat, rain and coronavirus threat? I don’t know why Bangla Academy and our publishing industry leaders are desperate to organise an untimely book fair this year,” he said.
“I think our leaders should think about alternatives. Instead of depending on Bangla Academy for arranging a single book fair, they should arrange separate fairs and encourage publishers to publish and sell books throughout the year,” Robin added.