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Average footfall at Howrah Book Fair

The 24th Howrah Boi Mela held in the vicinity of Sarat Sadan had to contend with competition from Dwandik’s 15th Natyotsab held at the same time (January 5-13) at the cultural centre of the town in terms of attracting visitors. The book fair was inaugurated on January 5 by finance minister Amit Mitra, with minister for agriculture marketing Arup Roy, minister for irrigation and waterways Rajib Banerjee and minister for mass education and library services Abdul Karim Chowdhury.

This year’s mela had 62 stalls, of which 42 were for books. Well-known publishers like Dey’s, Deb Sahitya Kutir, Nirmal Book Agency and Ananda Publishers occupied prime place at the fair. Smaller publishers like Punascha, Prova Prakashani, Saibya Prakashan Bibhag and an Urdu publication also set up stalls at the fair.

However, there weren’t many takers for Howrah Boi Mela as the footfall at the fair remained average. At six in the evening, Sarat Sadan premises was not as busy as one would expect. Only some librarians ambled from stall to stall looking for books of their choice. While some blamed it on the winter chill, others felt that there was little choice at the district fair.

Some were happy, however, to purchase books from the publishers themselves. “This year Ananda Publishers had its own stall at Howrah Boi Mela. In previous fairs, their books were sold through other stalls. Dey’s had taken a bigger stall this year and brought some of their new titles,” said Prantar Banerjee, the librarian of Ramkrishna Granthagar in Bally. Dey’s new titles included Bani Basu’s Composition, Suchitra Bhatta-charya’s Megher Dore Megh, Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Esho, Prafulla Roy’s Bishphoron among others. Some publishers brought compilations of Sunil Gangopadhyay’s works a volume of 10 stories. Prova Prakashani’s handbook of government norms for public libraries sold quickly. But many other librarians were dissatisfied.

“We do not find the titles that we look for at the fair. This year, even renowned publishers have not brought their latest titles. The people at the counters were also inexperienced and knew nothing about new titles or about any book that I asked for,” said Dibyendu Chandra, the librarian of Chengail Saraswat Pathagar. “One of the reasons was that there were a number of book fairs taking place at the same time. Along with Howrah, Midnapore and Balurghat were also holding book fairs at the same time,” said Nishit Sarkar, an active member of the mela committee and member of the Local Library Authority for Howrah.

It was a good fair for some publishers like Patra Bharati who made brisk business selling good numbers of Nonte Phonte and Ranjan Bandopadhyay’s Kadambaridebir Suicide Note. Despite the shortcomings, this year’s sale at the fair was worth Rs 14 lakh, about a lakh more than last year.

Apart from books, there were seminars and exhibitions on Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Sukumar Ray. January 6 was devoted to children.