45th Kolkata Book Fair rescheduled finally!

Third wave of Covid-19 to blame

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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.

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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