After losses of Rs 17 lakh incurred in 2007-08 when the venue was shifted from the centrally located Maidan grounds to the Salt Lake stadium, the 34th Kolkata Book Fair closed on a successful note this year. Small and medium publishers and the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, the organising body for the Book Fair, reported business of close to Rs 20 crore this year.
The Kolkata Book Fair is the annual event that all small and medium book sellers of West Bengal, as well as publishers of other states, look forward to because of the phenomenal footfalls and sales generated over a period of 11 days. Most small and medium book sellers are of the opinion that the Kolkata Book Fair makes up for around 30-50 per cent of their annual earnings and the proportion is only increasing.
This year at the Kolkata Book fair, the small and medium book sellers’ sales jumped 5-20 per cent compared to last year. The bigger, branded publishers saw sales jump 15-25 per cent.
Of a total of 650 stalls this year, around 250 stalls were put up by small and medium book sellers, occupying an average of 100-120 sq ft per stall.
Around 18 lakh people visited the Book Fair this year compared to 14.5 lakh visitors last year.
Prabir Mazumder, treasurer, Publishers and Booksellers Guild, said, “Book sellers attribute the growth in sales this year to more visitors as well as a higher conversion ratio. Also, selling prices of books on an average have gone up by 10-15 per cent, because paper prices have increased around 20 per cent in one year.”
Book Fair registered business of around Rs 20 crore this year, which is nearly Rs 3 crore more than last year. The organisers need around Rs 1-2 crore to organise the Book Fair in Kolkata every year.
The organisers’ source of income is through rent collected from stalls (Rs 250 per sq metre this year, same as last year), through ticket sales (Rs 5, refundable if people buy books), and through sponsorships.
Hiring Milan Mela grounds itself cost the Guild around Rs 40 lakh this year.
According to a small-scale publisher who requested anonymity, “In 2007, when the book fair was shifted from Maidan and held at Salt Lake, I made a sales of only Rs 48,000 in 10 days as against Rs 4 lakh that I used to when the fair used to be held at the Maidan. This year, however, I sold books worth Rs 5 lakh.”
According to another local vernacular books publisher, “Irrespective of the venue, the cost of setting up a stall and electricity bills remain the same. So a drop in sales really hurt.”
The venue of the Kolkata Book Fair had to be changed in 2007 after a High Court said that the fair was causing environmental pollution and had to be shifted from Maidan. An environmental activist had filed a petition for the High Court’s intervention against holding the fair at the Maidan. The High Court cancelled an alternative site on Park Circus Maidan and directed the Guild to restore Park Circus to its original condition and hand it back to Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) at the earliest.
The court issued the order in response to a PIL filed by Park Circus residents who contended that the fair and its visitors in the densely populated residential area, housing several schools and colleges and two important hospitals, would violate the Pollution Act, Environment Protection Act and Noise Pollution Act.