Kolkata book business hit harder than ever after cyclone Amphan

By 27 May 2020

After cyclone Amphan lashed Kolkata bringing in heavy rain, water entered closed outlets of booksellers, publishers and binders of the historic College Street, and damaged printed books and pages ready for binding, causing losses to the tune of lakhs of rupees, an official said on Friday.

The apex body of publishers and booksellers of the state said they will soon hold a meeting and may have to seek help from the state government to bail them out as the cyclone dealt a fresh blow to the business after the two-month-long lockdown.

PTI reported Apu Dey, a key member of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild as saying, “If you consider the waterlogging inside publishing units and shops which caused serious damage to printed books, the losses could be into lakhs. However, if you also take into account the seeping of water book binding units as well, where printed pages are bound in volumes, the losses can be more, may run into a crore.

Dey said the Covid-19 induced lockdown had stalled publications before the Bengali New Year on April 14, and now cyclone Amphan has turned things difficult for publishers and book sellers of College Street.

Dotted with makeshift bookstalls along both sides of the road, College Street is a one-of-a-kind book market in the world that draws locals and tourists alike from every nook and cranny of the globe.

According to an estimate, around 100 big and small publishers and over 200 shops sell books on various subjects — fiction, non-fiction, text books, secondhand books. Besides, there are stalls that sell all paper stationery items.

“Our world is tremendously affected. The first attack was by Covid-19, followed by two months of lockdown and then Amphan! Thousands of books kept in locked book stores have been soiled,” Tridib Chatterjee, the guild president said.

The Deb Sahitya Kutir, an old publishing house, said it has incurred heavy losses as thousands of printed pages ready for binding were damaged, besides printed books, as water seeped below closed shutters. “We are not in a position now to calculate the losses. It will take months to recover,” Rupa Majumder said on behalf of the Deb Sahitya Kutir.

While some publishers and store owners could rush to College Street to check the damage done by the cyclone, many who live in the districts could not as trains are not running because of the lockdown, said Dey.

The history of College Street goes back to the time when the Hindu College was established in 1817, which was later renamed as the Presidency College. Other major educational institutions also came up along the stretch during the 19th century. While the Calcutta University was established in 1857, the Hindu School came up in 1817, the Hare School in 1818 and the Sanskrit College in 1824.

(Courtesy PTI)

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