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Bengal: ‘Largest Book Fair’ in Kolkata to Commence Early due to School Exams in 2024

The focal theme country of the 47th International Kolkata Book Fair is the United Kingdom, marking 75 years of the British Council's presence in India.
The focal theme country of the 47th International Kolkata Book Fair is the United Kingdom, marking 75 years of the British Council's presence in India.

Kolkata: Preparations are in full swing for the 47th International Kolkata Book Fair (IKBF), scheduled to take place from January 18-31, 2024, in Salt Lake. Following Durga Puja, this book festival stands as the state's second-largest event, spanning 13 days. It is also termed as the world's ‘largest book festival’.

Tridib Chatterjee, president of the Publisher & Booksellers Guild and general secretary Sudhangshu Dey marked the commencement of the preparations for the book fair and announced that the focus country would be the United Kingdom, marking 75 years of the British Council's presence in India.

Andrew Fleming, British Deputy High Commissioner, East and North East India, and Dr Debanjan Chakrabarti, Director of British Council, East and North East India, were present on the occasion and outlined the fair as an “opportunity to deepen cultural understanding and strengthen bonds between the UK and India.”

The book fair will be inaugurated by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. It is being held earlier than usual in view of the Central and state board exams starting in late January and the first week of February 2024. This change offers book lovers additional holidays on January 23rd and 26th, along with the two Saturdays and Sundays during the fair. 

Last year's Kolkata Book Fair saw a massive turnout of 2.6 million, resulting in book sales worth Rs 25 crore. A total of 580 stalls, small and large, were set up, said Chatterjee.

Chatterjee said there were 85 million Bengali-speaking people in West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura, which was a big market for books in Bengali language. However, he expressed concerns over rising paper costs affecting publishers and the impact of online media on the publishing industry.

After the Bangladesh elections in January 2024, the guild plans to contact the new government there to facilitate the entry of books from West Bengal publishers into the neighouring country.

The venue of the Kolkata Book Fair will be at Boi Mela Prangan, Salt Lake, similar to last year. The guild acknowledged the government of West Bengal as the first to recognise publishing as an industry and expressed gratitude for the cooperation received from various departments and Bidhannagar Municipality.

Chatterjee said it was at the CM‘s behest that the Guild representatives accompanied her on a business delegation to Spain. The publishers also had the opportunity to address and participate in the ‘Creative Economy’ session at the Bengal Global Business Summit held in the city recently.

While many new publishers are seeking space in the book fair, the guild acknowledged the challenge of accommodating everyone due to limited ground space.

Meanwhile, the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) said they would put of stalls featuring books on students and youth movements, primarily in Bengali, along with other items. LeftWord Books and the National Book Agency of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal are also among the participating publishers.

The number of stalls is expected to reach almost 900 in 2024, including small, medium, and large stalls, with representation from Bangladesh and other foreign participants. Prominent national and multinational publishers, including Oxford University Press, Rupa, Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, Bloomsbury, and Pan Macmillan, are expected to participate.

The tagline for last year's fair, 'Boi Porun, Boi Kinun, Boi Upohaar Din' (Read Books, Buy Books, Gift Books), continues to resonate in the celebration of literature and culture in West Bengal.

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