Next book exhibition will be held in September, say the organisers

There was plenty of food for mind and body at the week-long book fair at St. John’s Vestry Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School organised by the Rotary Club of Tiruchirappalli. The event had the added attraction of a “food mela” this year.

Fifteen publishing houses took part in the book fair and though the number of participants was less this year, sales were reported to be higher, organisers told The Hindu.

“Our event’s dates overlapped with those of the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI) book fair in Perambalur because of which many publishers pulled out at the last minute,” said Mr. Saravanan, chairman of the Rotary Club.

This year, 84 stalls were set up, and six stayed vacant because of the scheduling problems. “We are planning to hold the next book fair in end-September, which is our usual time for the event.”

Besides daily talks by leading Tamil writers and social commentators, visitors could sample food from regular street snacks to ethnic cuisine offerings at the 40 stalls set up in an adjoining enclosure as part of the food fair. A cookery competition on Saturday was the highlight of this event.

“We decided to add the food fair because we wanted families to get the experience of a full outing,” said Mr. Saravanan. “Next time, we are planning to create space for gardening enthusiasts and display rare orchids. But we are not going to get children’s joy-rides – it will become too much of a carnival,” he added.

With the business model of traditional publishing getting slowly upended by electronic media, book fairs seem to be the few places where the old-style paper and ink books can still be found in vast numbers.

At the Tiruchi event, most stalls seemed to have stuck to either school-friendly tutorial material in the form of colouring and activity books or encyclopaedia sets, or gone for works on philosophy and religion. Stalls selling English fiction were few, and as usual, it was the discount counters that drew the most number of browsers.

As usual, cookbooks, and anthologies of Tamil magazine articles drew a steady number of browsers. The more unusual exhibitors included herbal cosmetic vendor, two art galleries, and spoken English course CD sellers. “Although there were fewer stalls this year, the sales were better,” said P.R. Panchanathan, a Rotarian.