The 36 edition of the Chennai Book Fair came to a close on Wednesday, with more than 9 lakh visitors getting an opportunity to browse through 10 lakh titles over the course of 13 days.
The fair, held at the YMCA Grounds in Nandanam, had 746 stalls and their combined sales touched around Rs. 12 crore.
What began with just 22 stalls in 1976 has grown today to over 700 stalls, said R.S. Shanmugam, president of the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI), which organised the fair. “On January 19 alone, there were over 1 lakh visitors. The fair has become a forum where discussions are held with authors on various issues,” he said.
Rajam Ramachandran, who hails from Madurai and has settled in Nandanam with her family, said she enjoyed all the evening programmes at the fair. “I have visited the fair quite a number of times. The children and I picked up books including ‘Sivagamiyin Sabatham’ and Ponniyin Selvan. I am re-reading them and it takes me back in time,” she said.
The book fair had something for everyone. From kolam books with up to 1,000 different patterns to water-colouring books for Rs. 23 each, children and adults alike were enthralled by the range of titles on sale. Many parents like Sharmila Madhavan from T. Nagar were seen buying books for their children. “I don’t buy books any more. Instead I like to spend on my children,” she said.
Another thing that many parents picked up for children were world maps and globes. “Maps of the world help children learn geography. These sell in large numbers. Local Chennai maps also are wanted by many people. Drivers mostly buy these maps to learn the routes,” said a sales person at the Rhythm Book Distributors stall that sold 2,500 maps in 13 days.
And sales personnel say that every year, the book fair has only been seeing an increase in sales figures and numbers of visitors. V. Badrinarayanan, sales supervisor at the Children’s Book Trust stall said that every year there is an increase of 20 per cent in sales. “The reading habit is still alive in people. The Chennai Book Fair is the best among all the book fairs that I have seen,” he said.
At the valedictory function, mementoes were presented to 24 publishers, who have been in the industry for 30 years.
Madras High Court judge D. Hariparandaman said that even small books reflected the society of the time they were written in. He said that books brought in change, and that they had even on occasion, led to a change in governments.
In her address, Madras High Court judge S. Vimala said she was happy to see such large crowds at the fair buying books.