To the people of Vijayawada the book festival has been a calendar event for over two decades. Book lovers from all the coastal districts and even from Rayalaseema and Telangana districts throng the city during the festival. Book lovers raised a hue and cry the year the festival, which is usually held without fail from January 1 to 11, had to be postponed by a fortnight because of a clerical error.
Vijayawada, that was once a newspaper and Telugu book publication centre is on the world map of book fairs because of this annual book festival.
To realise the importance of the book festival in the city one should look at the different cities in the State and the country that cannot boast of a decent book festival that can cater to the reading, intellectual and professional needs of the denizens.
Former Vice-Chancellor and doyen of education in the State Sir C.R. Reddy had the Andhra University shifted to Visakhapatnam after branding Vijayawada an “intellectual Sahara”. Visakhapatnam developed as a hub of academics, but it cannot even today boast of having a book fair like Vijayawada.
Book-lovers and book-sellers have tried in vain twice to have an annual book festival in the port city. The second time the Vijayawada Book Festival Society (VBFS) that conducts the book festival here tried to give a helping hand at the insistence of NBT, but no festival was held in Visakhapatnam the subsequent year.
Hyderabad, with 400 years of history, also doesn’t have a book fair the city’s academics and intellectuals can be proud of.
Vijayawada Book Festival cannot be compared to big book fairs in the country, but publishers and book-sellers have tremendous respect for it. The biggest book fair in the country is the World Book Fair held in New Delhi. It used to be conducted for eight days once in two years, but a decision has been taken to make it an annual affair and the fair has been cut short to seven days.
The Kolkata Book Festival is seen as the mother of book fairs in the country where book-lovers stand in queues to buy both tickets into the fair and also the books.
Next to these two book fairs is the Vijayawada Book Festival, which is known for ‘national participation’ and ‘consistence’. Bangalore Book Fair which started more recently is fast catching up. Chennai conducts a book festival, but mostly Tamil publishers participate.
“We have limited the number of participants to be able to provide quality services both to the customers and the participants,” VBFS president D. Ashok Kumar.
Mr. Ashok Kumar, who goes to the mother of book fairs in the world, the Frankfurt Book Fair, whenever possible says that more books are displayed and sold in Vijayawada Book Festival than in some of the international book fairs.