Fair to book ‘fare’

Visually challenged students from Indian Association for Blind (IAB) browsing books at the 11th edition of Madurai Book Fair.Photo: S. James

Visually challenged students from Indian Association for Blind (IAB) browsing books at the 11th edition of Madurai Book Fair.Photo: S. James  


In the era of technology that offers books on the phones and the tablet, why not take a stroll in an array of books?

The annual Madurai book fair – the 11th in a row is here once again bringing the wonderful opportunity to book lovers to relish thousands of titles in multiple languages and feel rejuvenated. Organised by the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India (BAPASI) at the Tamukkam ground, it was inaugurated by Collector K.Veera Raghava Rao last week and every ensuing day has witnessed an increase in footfall.

“Over these years, the crowd attending the book fair has been growing. In 2005, we held the first fair with 100 stalls. This time round there are 260 stalls,” notes K.S.Murugan, joint secretary BAPASI. He describes in detail how beneficiary the annual book fair is for both the buyers and sellers as they are sold at a discounted price. “The lowest price for a book at the fair is Rs.10,” he adds, further informing that the latest editions of the book usually find a place here and that is what makes the collection awesome.

According to Murugan, the publishing houses participating in the fair are members of BAPASI and all are given two months notice to assort and arrange the best books for the fair. Only the National Book Trust, participating since 2005, comes as a separate entry as it is under the Ministry of Education of the Government of India.

“As sellers at the fair, most of us share a homogeneous market. So the chances of a particular publication enjoying a monopoly are reduced”, points out Shiv Kumar, head of Sri Siva bookstall. He has been participating since 2006. His sentiments are echoed by several other stall heads.

“We have been coming since 2011 and we get readers majority of whom prefer books by Indian writers. But apart from knowing what the readers want, we also bring books on classics, history, philosophy, romance etc. Except for few stalls that specialize in a particular genre, most of the stalls offer more or less the same variety. So, the stalls actually compete in terms of availability of the books and their prices”, says Ravi Verma, head of Book World stall.

The BAPASI’S priority of encouraging reading and ensuring satisfaction among its customers has bore fruit as many customers at the fair have unfailingly been regular visitors for years now. “I have been attending the fair since 2010 and it is really a blessing for us to find books concerning academics and our personal interests simultaneously. Instead of running around the city in search of books or buying it online, we might just wait for the fair every year to begin as they are affordable”, says Aravindan Mohan, B.Com Final year student of Madura College.

Most of the stalls are either retailers or wholesalers and bring stocks largely comprising English and Tamil books. Other languages are to be found on a minimalist scale. Tamil books enjoy a monopoly over other languages in sales. With the popular genre being fiction, biographies, auto-biographies, there are certain genres like spirituality that are facing low sales in comparison.

“Compared to last year, our sales have been less. The stocks we bring to the fair include an estimate of last year’s sales and the assessment of the present reading trends. But yes, the demand to read in English is on a rise, so most of the buyers we’ve attended till now have bought only those books”, says S.D. Pandey, head of Motilal Banarasidass stall, specialising in spiritual genre. It has a good collection on Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, Buddhism, philosophy and yoga. The only stall selling similar books have been set up by the Geeta publishing house, perhaps indicating the limited readers for this genre.

The exhibition is well-organized for smooth functioning. A highlight like every year is the ongoing discussions at the venue. Renowned writers and motivational speakers review books or encourage people to read more books through their talks or share their experiences on writing. The Honorable Madras High Court Judge, R. Mahadevan is scheduled to attend the valedictory session of the book fair on September 12. It is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and the weekend rush is particularly heavy.

The easy accessibility to books for customers from all walks of life and the affordable pricing has been attracting more people to the fair. There is actually a fair within a fair what with a flea market displaying easy-on-pocket books especially for school and college students. Books of Dan Brown, Paulo Coelho, Nicholas Sparks and many others can be bought at a much cheaper rate. Spiritual books and those on astrology, Vivekananda, Ramakrishna and the popular motivational books by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, are also a hit. There are many multimedia stalls offering CDs, books and various other innovative methods to approach subjects like science and maths.

It is indeed a happy feeling to see people so enthusiastic about grabbing a copy of the book of their choice. It is much in contrast to the presumed notion that the practice of reading is on the decline and losing its charm. As American author Garrison Keillor said: “A book is a gift you can open again and again”. So why would you want to let go off it?

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 6:09:09 PM |

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