41st Kolkata book fair to open under shadow of demonetisation

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Kolkata, Dec 13 (IANS) The 41st edition of the International Kolkata Book Fair (IKBF), with a focus on Costa Rica and the special participation of Russia, is set to open on January 25 next year, with organisers apprehending demonetisation’s fallout on the supply of books and eventual impact on sales.

Organised by the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, the 12-day long event will be inaugurated at Milan Mela grounds on the city’s eastern fringes on January 25. It is the largest attended book fair in the world. The event will conclude on February 5.

“Costa Rica is the focal theme country this year. This is the only country in the world that does not have an official national army since 1949. At a time when we are playing war-war and India’s defence budget is being increased every year, it is significant to have this country as the focal country,” Tridib Chatterjee, honorary general secretary of the guild, told the media here.

To celebrate 70 years of diplomatic ties between Russia and India, the IKBF will see the nation as a special participant, said Chatterjee. In total 29 foreign countries, including 11 Latin American nations, will be showcased.

However, the forthcoming edition presents “major challenges” for the organisers in terms of the skewed demand-supply equation in the publishing industry hit by dearth of hard cash.

“The major issue, particularly for the Bengali publishers, is the supply of books. For the books to be printed and bound, one needs to pay the labourers in hard cash. Publishers are likely to bring out only one-fifth of their titles,” Chatterjee lamented.

To counter the problems, he said, discussions are on to make the mega-event as cashless as possible.

“We welcome the mobile wallet companies. We are presently thinking of launching community card swiping machines for small publishers. For that we have spoken to SBI. In addition, there is the option of mobile ATMs. At least 14 to 15 ATMs will be set up inside the fair grounds,” he said.

But the catch in making transactions cashless is the lack of connectivity, said Chatterjee.

“There is no connectivity of servers. We are not worried about the footfall but we are seeing (from the smaller book fairs) that people are scared of making purchases in hard cash. They prefer cards,” he said.

Chatterjee said last year around Rs 25 crore sales was recorded and the organisers hope to push up the sales further in 2017 despite the shadow of demonetisation.

IKBF’s side event, the fourth Kolkata Literature Festival, will be held from February 2 to February 4.

–IANS

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