Curtain call

Book lovers, publishers and others at the Ekushey Boi Mela tell Sadiqur Rahman about the various ways the festival can be improved during the coming years

As the month-long ‘Ekushey boi mela’ of 2017 concluded on February 28, book lovers at the fair hoped for more coordinated festivals along with quality titles in the years to come.

Sony-32The book lovers, publishers and authors all commended the efforts taken by the authorities during this year’s fair. During this year, the fair management committee under the cultural affairs ministry, distributed 667 stalls among 411 publishing houses and government offices on around four lakh square feet area at the Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Udyan. The fair has thus been spacious this year as the book-lovers and authors had demanded following the 2016 fair.

According to fair officials, around 5,000 visitors had flocked the fair everyday while the number stood at more than 10,000 during the holidays.

During the fair, many visitors expressed satisfaction with the space and atmosphere of the fair but they were disappointed with shortage of food and seating facilities at the fair premises.

Although there were two food courts each at the academy and Suhrawardy Udyan fair premises, visitors complained that the facilities were inadequate, less accommodative and costly, especially one ran by the academy’s fourth-grade staff where the consumers were charged for food illicitly.

In his concluding speech, the fair management committee’s member secretary Jalal Ahmed also admitted that adequate seating facilities are needed for the visitors, especially the senior citizens and children, who become tired after visiting the many book stalls.

This year, 3,646 new titles had hit the fair with 1,122 books on poems leading the tally followed by 576 novels, 520 anthologies of short stories, 168 books on essays, 118 books for juveniles, 87 research-based books and others.

Jalal said that a sub-committee has found 858 quality books among the new arrivals which he termed as ‘encouraging’.

Contrarily, readers observed that most of the books, whether new or old titles,  are error-ridden with spelling mistakes while a good number of books by the young writers are less interesting due to lack of in-depth content and linguistic art.

Osman Gani, publisher at Agamee Prokashan and former president of Academic and Creative Publishers’ Association of Bangladesh, blames the mushrooming publication houses with unskilled copy editors for the substandard titles.

Mazharul Islam, president of the association, thinks that declining trend of reading and freehand writing habit of the aspiring writers are the root causes behind the problem.

Publishers should critically consider the manuscripts by the writers, whether aspiring or prominent ones and ensure best editing before publishing new titles, he suggests.

Amid questionable quality of the books, the approximate revenue from sale in the book fair is around Tk 65.4 crore this year, around 55 per cent higher than the previous year’s count, according to Bangla Academy information centre.

During the fair, publishers and book buyers said that varied titles by the prominent and potential writers, mostly published during the previous years, were items which were most searched.

Sharmeen Sultana, a bookworm, says that she has finally managed to collect 10 books including travelogues, memoirs and science fictions after a number of visits to the fair.

She says, ‘Good quality book is worth reading, hence I should not waste money whimsically at buying substandard books.’

Comparing the International Trade Fair in the capital, another month-long mega event during January of the year, prominent writer Mohit Kamal urges the authorities concerned to extend the operational time of the fair.

‘A book fair is no less valuable than a trade fair for the development of a country’, he opines.

The book fair was began unofficially in 1972 by Muktadhara publisher Chittaranjan Saha near the Bardhwan House inside Bangla Academy. The fair assumed a shape in 1978 and was renamed as ‘Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela’ in 1984.