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The pleasure of selling books, and buying too

23 January 2018

Selling books is as much fun as buying them. Dibyajyoti Sarma discovers how at the New Delhi World Book Fair at Pragati Maidan New Delhi, from 6 to 14 January 2018

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What separates New Delhi World Book Fair from other trade shows that Pragati Maidan has been hosting for years is the pleasure of sharing. Perhaps no other product has this effect that books have, both on the seller and the buyer, a sense of immediate gratification. 
 
Like any other trade show, the book fair is also primarily about business, and there are plenty of opportunities for business and networking, from CEOSpeak, a publisher’s forum, to New Delhi Rights Table. For those Indian publishers and printers who cannot afford to travel all the way to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the hub of international publishing, New Delhi World Book Fair offers the next best opportunity. 
 
The book fair also offers the publishers an avenue for direct retail. With physical bookstores now becoming a rare thing across the country, the book fair offers both the publishers and book lovers a meeting ground.
 
The New Delhi World Fair has all of these and something more, something akin to an actual fair, with visiting teeming the fair ground, young and old, lovers and parents with kids in tow and everyone in between, looking for discounts, looking for that special book, or just hanging out, taking selfies with authors, or browsing books you can never afford to buy. 
 
All in all, it’s a sight to behold to see young people at the show. Every year, the book fair is the living proof that printed books are going strong. More importantly, printed books are becoming desirable. 
 
Going green
Climate change is the name of the game, and the 2018 edition of New Delhi World Book Fair, which opened on 6 January, did its bit by making Environment and Climate Change its theme presentation, featuring a collective exhibition of books on environment. There were five hundred books in various languages on display. Plus, the theme pavilion was decorated in a way to inspire people to protect nature. 
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The nine-day annual event was inaugurated by Sunita Narain, environmentalist and author; Tomasz Kozlowski, ambassador, Delegation of European Union to India; Baldev Bhai Sharma, chairman, National Book Trust and Madhu Ranjan Kumar, joint secretary, the ministry of Human Resource Development. Addressing the event through video conferencing, HRD minister Prakash Javadekar said climate change awareness is important as humans have exploited Earth beyond its limits. “We have taken more from the Earth than it could offer. It is about time we realised the importance of awareness,” he said.
 
Narain (whose book has been recently published) also spoke about the effects of climate change and the need for awareness, calling it the ‘biggest threat faced by the poorest of the poor.’ “The Western world is talking and negotiating about environment change, they are holding meetings while here in India, we are witnessing climate change with extreme cold, extreme drought and extreme rains. It is no more an upcoming event, climate change is here. And the worst affected are the poorest people, the farmers, the marginalised. We don’t need to be told about climate change, we are living it,” she said.
 
Kozlowski also emphasised the role of books in spreading awareness. “The most important aspect of a book fair is the participation for the general public, and with the event’s theme of environment and climate change, we hope to spread the message to as many people as possible. The fair has a good reputation of creating awareness and bringing change in society. It is a medium to develop cultural ties between India and the European countries,” he said.  
 
Guest of Honour
With the European Union (EU) being the Guest of Honour ‘country’ this year, more than 20 EU countries participated at the event with a delegation of publishers, editors and authors. The EU pavilion also showcased some of the latest publications in English and other European languages along with panel discussions, talks, photo exhibits and cultural performances.
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There was a number of interesting events lined up, such as a talk on contemporary Polish picture book art; a panel discussion on cooperation opportunities between Indian and Slovenia; presentation of new publications from Hungary; and a discussion between Antoine Gallimard, CEO, Madrigall group, France, and Bipin Shah, CEO, Mapin on publishing in the digital age, among others.
 
The German participation, represented by German Book Office, New Delhi, focused on promoting Indo-German translations, the contemporary book collection from Germany, and the Books on Tour initiative. One of its goals was to promote the translation of German books to diverse Indian languages. “We invited published translations of German works into Indian languages, and vice-versa, from publishers across the country. These books were a part of our Wall of Translation display,” Prashasti Rastogi, director, GBO New Delhi, said.
 
Keeping in sync with the theme, GBO also presented a book collection on nature. Total 50 original German titles from 26 publishers and their English translations from 53 publishers in the US, the UK, and the Commonwealth were a part of the feature ‘Books on Tour’. This selection demonstrated the broad range of recent German titles available in English translation. 
 
Networking with books
Beyond the bonhomie of visitors, one major aspect of the New Delhi World Book Fair was business networking, and two of the major events for this were the CEOSpeak and New Delhi Rights Table. 
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CEOSpeak, organised by NBT, India, organiser of the NDWBF, with Ficci, focused on India-EU Publishing forum. 
 
Tomasz Kozlowski, ambassador, Delegation of European Union to India, highlighted the rich cultural and literary tradition that both Europeans and Indian nurture and said, “It is clear that interest among European publishers in the Indian market will continue to grow in the coming years as the Indian book market promises considerable growth potential.”
 
The book publishing sector in Europe employs some 150,000 people directly and up to some 700,000 indirectly. In the 36-40 billion euros global book market, the European book publishing sector takes a 22-24 billion euros share.
 
Kozlowski said, “New trends in the publishing industries such as the use of eBooks might revolutionise the book markets both in Europe and India. This opportunity will allow us with the member states to jointly showcase the dynamic European publishing production in the growing Indian market, and bring contemporary European literature even closer to the Indian people.”
 
Baldeo Bhai Sharma emphasised on the need of advertising translated literature in the global market and said, “The business of publishing does not take sustenance only from the publication of original titles, which is of course the basis of the business, but it is the translation that provides the major dynamo.”
 
The conference saw the participation from over 150 CXOs from India and the European Union.
 
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Children’s lit
While the decision to make NCERT books ‘mandatory’ in CBSE schools has hit both printers and education publishers hard, the book fair showcased a hitherto less explored area in publishing — children’s literature, not necessarily educational books, but books to read and grow with. There were a sizeable number of publishers of children’s books attracting visitor attention, including Pratham Books, which recently won the Publishing Next Publisher of the Year 2017 Award. This is to NBT’s credit that in the last few years, children’s books have emerged as its own independent genre, so much so that multinational publishers like Hachette and Penguin had separate stalls for children’s books. 
 
IP monetisation
As books compete with other mediums of entertainment, ranging from TV to internet, experts suggest the way to move forward is IP monetisation, where an intellectual property, available until only in print, is used in different mediums. Amar Chitra Katha, the publisher of the popular comics, showed how to do it, with products ranging from tote bags depicting pages from the comics to printed t-shirts and coasters. We noticed similar endeavours at the Roli Books stall as well. Viva books!
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