A movable feast

The 27th annual World Book Fair in Delhi


The 27th annual New Delhi World Book Fair organized at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi between 5 January to 13 January 2019 was a roaring success. One of the oldest book fairs in India, it is organized by the National Book Trust of India. The theme of this year’s book fair was ‘Books for readers with special needs’ and the ‘guest of honor country’ was Sharjah. The fair offered a unique opportunity to exchange ideas, to promote titles and was an intellectual feast.

Apart from the thousand of book titles presented by hundreds of publishers around the world, the book fair hosted numerous mini-exhibits, international events, seminars, conferences, coversations, and cultural programs to captivate book lovers. The category-wise placed exhibitors made it easy for the visitors to navigate through the fair. Halls were designated for events related to children, authors, foreign exhibitors, cultural presentations, seminars and discussions, themes, and international events.

The event began on 5 January with the inauguration of the Sharjah Guest of Honor Pavilion. The aesthetically pleasing Sharjah Pavilion attracted quite a number of visitors which introduced them to the Arabic tradition, history, politics, literature, calligraphy, folk music, art, artifacts, costumes and books. From the chance to meet some of the extraordinary artists from Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to a peek into the tax free and profitable environment of Sharjah’s publishing industry, the Sharjah pavilion made an exciting spot at the book fair.

We are all differently-abled

The theme of this year’s book fair emphasized the reading needs of the differently abled and especially children. The attempt was to explore the problems related to the production and distribution of content for readers with various special needs. Panel discussions on the topics such as ‘Readers with special needs: Issues and challenges,’ ‘Inculcating reading habits among children, with special needs,’ a Disability Film Festival, discussion with differently-abled artists, poetry and music programs were some of the many approaches undertaken by the National Book Trust to meaningfully reflect on the important issue.

Dapon, an all dwarves theatre group in India performed a short drama depicting the daily discrimination and prejudices they have to suffer at the hands of ‘normal’ people on 8 January in the theme pailion. The pavilion was decorated posters, panels and art about and by some of the differently-abled artists and achievers.

The Children’s pavilion hosted a variety of workshops and panel discussions on magazines, children’s literature, storytelling, anger and stress management, skits on importance of books, seminars on the rights of students, science writing, imagination, dance, Indian history, career guidance and environment. The organisers of their activities included Pratham Books, Wise n Shine, National Book Trust, Amity University Press, Jawaharlal University University, ABDS Corporation, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and the Sahitya Akademi.

The author’s corner was an interesting platform for budding and aspiring writers to gain an insight into the world of writers and publishers. Discussions revolved around new books, politics, evolving forms of writing and literature, various forms of writing, audio books, electronic media and the future of books. Publishers and authors such as Renu Saini from Prabhat Prakashan, Priyank from Benten Books, Nikhil Devasar and Venkatesan from Penguin Random House India, Vani Prakashan, Natasha Badhwar from Simon and Schuster, Reshma Qureshi and Tania Singh from Pan Macmillan India and many others shared and explained their views on these topics.

Life after acid attacks

The pavilion gave voice to acid attack victims in an event ‘Life after acid attack: being Reshma’ organized on 10 January where Reshma Qureshi spoke about how she overcame the suffering and damaged caused to her after a a brutal acid attack and evolving into a confident and strong person who is now the face of ‘Make love not scars’ an initiative aimed towards supporting acid attack survivors. On 11 January, the Braille edition of Ek Yogi ki Atmakatha, the Hindi translation of Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, a yogi who spread the knowledge of yoga and spirituality among millions of people around the world.

Apart from the smorgasbord of events on diverse topics, book fair visitors found themselves lost for hours in the sea of books ranging from original titles to discounted books filling countless shelves in well designed visual settings. The 9-day long book fair ended on 13 January 2019 successfully with a total of 9,00,000 visitors. This years theme sentisized young and older visitors to the daily struggles and serious issues faced by differently-abled people while also empowering them to address these challenges.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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