Local publishers make up the majority at the 17th Kochi International Book Festival

There’s something overwhelming about walking through 160 stalls of books. The 17th edition of the 10-day Kochi International Book Festival is currently on at Ernakulathappan Grounds, and if you make it there early enough, you won’t have to dodge the 5,000-odd numbers that people its pathways every day.

“We have about 300 publishers among all the stalls and over 60 per cent of them are Malayalam publishers,” says Nandakumar E.N., Secretary of the Antharashtra Pusthakotsava Smithi, which organises the Festival. In celebration of the Malayalam language, 17 painters from Kerala were commissioned to create works on the theme ‘Amma Malayalam’ and their impressions are up for display at the Festival too.

For regulars of the event, there are many familiar faces from last year’s stalls. The highlights for this year are the national publishers — National Book Trust, Sahitya Akademi and the Hindi Directorate. Notable among these is the stall and exhibition by the Census Department, and the Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series of works only in Sanskrit. The international representative this year is Hachette Books Group with a stall devoted to them hosting several international editions of books.

Tucked in between the book sellers are booths vending tablets and e-readers, jewellery, eatables, video and audio CDs, recorded educational supplements and the usual suspects – dictionaries, guide books and textbooks. But don’t miss the handful of stalls selling classics and contemporary novels at half-price, albeit in older editions.

The Festival also has several stalls full of books for children, besides exclusive spaces for religious writing. For instance, there’s a stall on books just about Mata Amritanandamayi, and publications from several Islamic publishing houses are present too. Many news houses have also made their mark at this Festival.

Alongside the books stands a large stage where events unfold through the week. A commemoration to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanada will be held there tomorrow at 6 p.m. The response for this year’s Festival has been positive, says Nandakumar, with a special mention for students who have visited aplenty. “With each year, we see a growth in reading among youngsters; and that’s a positive trend.” The Festival is on till January 13 and is from 9.30 a.m. to 9.30 p.m..