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Fair plans to fix low footfall

Calcutta Book Fair is looking for ideas to retain its pull.

The city’s annual must-visit, much-visited event — the 38th edition is on at Milan Mela across Science City at the moment — is losing its core customers, the urban youth, and non-branded publishers are returning weak sales figures.

To stop the worm before it brings down the edifice, the Publishers & Booksellers Guild has decided to set up a special committee to infuse fresh ideas into the next edition of the fair.

Young minds drawn from the corporate, advertisement and event management sectors will be part of the panel. They will work out strategies to jazz up the fair.

“Professionals will be drafted for a strategy to connect with the young generation and, at the same time, make the fair even more attractive. It could be like, for instance, a mix of literature with music,” said Tridib Chattopadhayay, the guild’s general secretary.

“The book fair needs to evolve with time. We can have something like book tourism…taking celebrated authors from abroad on a tour of the city’s prominent addresses,” he added.

Insiders in the Guild admitted that organising seminars, even those featuring big names, was not arresting fading footfall in the fair. Cultural programmes and live performances were turning out to be bigger draws.

“Live jazz, laser shows, celebrities or more cultural activities. What is it? We need to find out what would draw the crowd to Milan Mela and for that we need to work out a better package,” admitted Sribindu Bhattacharya of the Guild.

As the fair draws to a close — Sunday would be the last day for this edition — a section of the organisers has realised that the biggest challenge this year has been drawing people to the stalls of non-branded publishers. While the big and established names had their usual quota of book buffs in their stalls, the smaller publishing companies didn’t find the footfall they were expecting.

The majority of fairgoers this year turned up after checking the web portals of big publishers. Others came looking for catalogues before deciding on their pick. Browsing books at the smaller stalls didn’t really feature in this year’s fair.

“There are e-portals delivering books at home while the established ones are assured of their clientele. What happens to the smaller publishers? We need to think and come up with some great ideas,” Chattopadhayay said.