45th Kolkata Book Fair rescheduled finally!

Third wave of Covid-19 to blame

Kolkata Book Fair
Kolkata Book Fair 2010. Photo Wikimedia Commons

19 January 2022 – The 45th edition of the International Kolkata Book Fair, which was to be held from 31 January to 13 February 2022 has finally been postponed by a month due to the upsurge in Covid-19 cases in Kolkata amid the third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic across the country.

The Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Guild, which organizes the book event, said in an official statement on 17 January, that the 45th edition of the fair will now begin from 28 February 2022, and take place over 12 days. The Guild further shared that the decision had been taken after consultation with the West Bengal government in light of the increase in fresh Covid-19 infections in the City of Joy and the upcoming Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation elections from 12 February.

The third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across the country with many metropolitan cities reaching their infection peaks. West Bengal recorded a total of 9,385 fresh Covid-19 infections and 33 fatalities on 17 January (Monday) with 1,879 cases in Kolkata itself.

The Kolkata Book Fair is held annually in Central Park in Salt Lake City. The organizers have planned to enforce strict Covid-19 measures during the now 12-day event which include the requirement of double vaccination, mandatory mask use, sanitizer dispersion, and appropriate social distancing. The area of the bookstalls 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, with its 3-day conference likely to be streamed on the Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Guild’s website and social media accounts.

Bangladesh is the theme country for the 45th edition as it celebrated the golden jubilee of its independence in 2021, also celebrated as Swarnim Vijay Varsh in India for the 50th commemoration of the 1971 war. 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 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.

The last edition of the fair in 2020 is said to have recorded close to 22 lakh (2.2 million) 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 always interesting literary conferences and book releases in the capital of West Bengal.

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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