Jumana Quilonwala, dressed in a canary yellow burkha, sits at the Campfire Graphic Novels book stall at the New Delhi World Book Fair 2013, currently on at Pragati Maidan. She pores over a catalogue ticking off various titles. Ashok Namdeo, senior manager sales and marketing, Campfire, watches her intently. Quilonwala, is a woman much in demand. A language teacher at MSB Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chennai, she is at the fair with Rs 3 lakh to spend. Along with her friend and librarian of the school, she is here to procure books for the school’s library for the whole amount.
“We have a lovely library in our school, but our collection is not that huge, we have come here hoping to make it better,” she said.
The sun is finally shining and the book fair is seeing more footfall. This year also marks the introduction of the book fair as an annual event. While some publishers feel this helps visibility and sales and helps to keep track of rapidly changing trends, others feel that there has been scarce publicity for the event. While views differ on the merits of an annual fair, they all agree that the inclusion of only one weekend in the schedule adversely affects business.
No publisher willingly reveals the money made or spent during the fair, but with stalls costing between Rs 50,000 and Rs 5,50,000, they hope to make six to ten times the money spent through immediate sales and later commissions.
While the crowds are thinner than on weekends, some publishers are optimistic about the event. Caroline Newbury, VP Marketing and Publicity, Random House Publishers India, said, “We have seen a good buzz. Consumers come here and connect with us, which is very useful. Also we have a much wider range of books here than at bookshops — we have the recent titles, vintage classics, backlists .”
Kapil Kapoor, director of Roli Books, feels that the ample space at the book fair allows them to display their numerous coffee table books, which otherwise get lost in mainstream bookshops.
For other international players such as Harvard University Press, this is an important event as they have recently entered the Indian market paying heed to the price differentials, which means that you can now get some Harvard University Press books in rupees.
Sharmilla Sen, executive editor-at-large at Harvard University Press, based in Massachusetts, said,