45th Kolkata Book Fair likely to be held despite Covid upsurge

2022 Book Fair calendar begins on a pessimistic note

Kolkata Book Fair
Kolkata Book Fair 2010. Photo Wikimedia Commons

5 January 2022 – West Bengal has become the state with the second-highest number of infections with the recent spike in fresh Covid-19 cases across India. The Omicron variant is creating great concern among the general public and has forced the state government to impose fresh restrictions to control the upsurge. The Indian 2022 book fair calendar began on a pessimistic note with the postponement of the Chennai Book Fair and the Centre likely to take a final decision with respect to the upcoming 50th edition of the New Delhi World Book Fair.

In the last 24 hours, Kolkata’s Covid-19 positivity rate has risen to 23% as the fresh cases crossed the 6,000 threshold on 4 January. This resulted in fresh curbs by the state government including shutting down schools and the restriction of flights from Mumbai and Delhi, the two other metros with the highest and third highest new Covid-19 infections, respectively. However, the recent spike in the City of Joy hasn’t dampened the persistence of book publishers who are still optimistic of holding the Kolkata Book Fair, scheduled to be held from 31 January to 13 February 2022. The annual event was not held in 2021 due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

The Kolkata Book Fair is held annually in Central Park in Salt Lake City and is organized by the Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Guild. As per the organization, the cancellation of last year’s event has seriously affected the revenues of the booksellers and this is the primary reason that it is still carrying on with the preparation for the book exhibition despite the Covid-19 curbs. The organizers have planned to enforce strict Covid-19 measures during the 14-day event which include the requirement of double vaccination, mandatory mask use, sanitizer dispersion, and appropriate social distancing. The area of the book stalls at the venue will be altered to ensure social distancing. Online ePasses will be issued to ensure touch-free check-in to the KBF. The 2022 edition of the event will also be a hybrid edition, streamed on the  Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Guild’s website and social media accounts.

Bangladesh is the theme country for the 45th edition of the event as it celebrated the golden jubilee of its independence in 2021, which was also celebrated as Swarnim Vijay Varsh in India for the 50th year of the 1971 war victory against Pakistan. This year’s show will commemorate other events such as 75 years of Indian freedom, the birth centenary of renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray, and the 125th birth anniversary of Indian nationalist Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Preparations are also on to honor accomplished personalities from West Bengal who have passed away in recent years such as Pranab Mukherjee, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Soumitra Chatterjee, and Subrata Mukherjee, among others. 

The last held edition of the fair in 2020 is said to have recorded close to 22 lakh visitors resulting in B2C sales close to Rs 24 crore (US$ 3 million plus). The Kolkata Book Fair has simultaneously held a 3-day Kolkata Literature Festival since 2014, likely to be held this year as well. This will be the 8th edition of the much-awaited literary event in east India.

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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