In support of the Indian Virtual Book Fair

GoGlobal Award nomination for the Indian Virtual Book Fair

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The Indian Virtual Book Fair has been nominated for a GoGlobal Award
The Indian Virtual Book Fair has been nominated for a GoGlobal Award

The Virtual Book Fair story posted yesterday has compelled me to write a comment which is partly at the bottom of that story but since then, extended by the news that the new and still under development platform has already been nominated for a GoGlobal award. Additionally, the first Virtual Book Awards have also been organized and are being supported by ITC.

My comment essentially tried to cite the context and the need for such a platform by recalling that the complaint of some connected to the Indian publishing industry for many decades has been that our many book fairs have been ‘melas’ – essentially an outlet for the sale of books for smaller publishers who could meet a book hungry public across languages and interests. Of course our criticism was wrong because the more than 200 book fairs around the country each year represented one of the greatest aspirations and interests of a population gaining in not only functional literacy but in an active culture of modernity.

However, we saw that there was a greater need for the professional publishing culture and a huge unexplored opportunity for the structured trading of rights and translations across our languages and regions. This could not be addressed unless the fairs or the industry developed this activity alongside the melas. Structured interests and trade could also indirectly discourage piracy, we thought.

For a long time, quite a bit of the professional publishing culture was aided and nurtured by the Frankfurt Book Fair’s activity in India including its German Book Office. The GBO after many years of work has been wound up from the beginning of this year – a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic shrinking some of the more adventurous but useful and longterm efforts of the FBF. In the meantime, several years ago, the Jaipur Literary Festival started its BookMark activity – a physical and largely professional event alongside the festival but always in a discreetly separate venue that has taken on some of the work of literary awards, professional discussions of diversity, translations and perhaps a bit of the business of rights trading. This is a growing evolutionary success that adds justification to the JLF itself.

However the pandemic has thrown both the JLF and BookMark and to some extent the Frankfurt Book Fair out of gear. Frankfurt in its hybrid event learnt, I think, that its most important aspect for many professionals was really the rights platform. When this part was digitized with a hefty subsidy by the German government the rights platform which was hitherto a challenge for smaller publishers and new professionals became accessible – although I have not discussed this with the FBF organizers, I think they saw that this was a real or key value of the FBF for the industry.

It is with this perspective that I think that the Indian Virtual Book Fair investors and developers have hit on something important that will help the Indian book publishing industry. In a way the pandemic and its constraints on physical or face to face book fairs have thrown the emphasis on what publishers can do better by talking to each other and for themselves – using technology. And this is the opportunity that the Virtual Book Fair represents – to improve the business and professional side of our activity and to explore our regional literature and languages within our own comfort zone.

Technology has once more played into the hands of publishers who have invested years and generations but could not viably grow and access the potential of markets that seemed like a wall to them. Let this structured conversation that has flowered in the pandemic grow into a sound platform like the Indian Virtual Book Fair – with the humanity and open-ness of mind that publishing has always stood for. It is a huge and economically attractive proposition that will encourage many existing publishers and even others to become publishers who could not have dared to come forward given the barriers to trade and exchange that the old world of publishing had created and driven most except the fearless to a level of home or handicraft business.

GoGlobal Award nomination for Virtual Book Fair by the

International Trade Council

News just came on the evening of 30 June that VBF has been nominated for the GoGlobal Awards organized by the International Trade Council. The finalists will be announced in August and the winner will be announced virtually in September. The schedule – finalists will be announced by ITC, on Tuesday, 24 August 2021. The virtual (live) judging day will be 14 September 2021.

Short-listed organizations will be asked to prepare a two minute presentation to the judging panel. This will be presented to the judges and live-streamed simultaneously to ITC’s Facebook pages and Youtube pages.

Judges will be able to ask questions about your entry interactively and entrants can speak with the judges throughout the day in private booths. The virtual awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday, 5 October 2021. Three short-listed finalist delegates for each category will be invited to attend the virtual awards ceremony. This will also be live-streamed.

This year’s judging panel is largely composed of the leaders of government trade and investment agencies from across the globe. These agencies are responsible for inbound investments (new overseas expansions) into their countries as well as exports and imports to and from their countries. More about the individual judges at https://www.goglobalawards.org/judges

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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