Sunday, May 31, 2009

13th Nepal Educational and Book Fair: A Letdown

The 13th Education and Book Fair held at Bhrikuti Mandap Exhibition Hall in Kathmandu didn’t see as much glamour, visitors and media coverage compared to its previous year. Last year, the event had kicked off with a bang, with Dev Anand, the evergreen Indian actor inaugurating the event and later signing his autobiography “Romancing with Life”. The presence of this Bollywood sensation had drawn both media and public in bulk. But this year nothing of the sort happened. Although the event was inaugurated by poet Durga Lal Shrestha and noted Nepali writers Karna Shakya and Jagdish Ghimire spoke at the ceremony, it was not enough to create the buzz which last year’s fair had created. The opening ceremony itself was a fiasco; generating little media coverage.

To add further to its disappointment, the event collided with the examinations of students who are one of the prospective visitors of the fair. Also, with politics taking the centre stage at the moment, the fair couldn’t generate as much interest and attention from people. Worse, the global economy meltdown and inflation didn’t help either. Last year, the fair saw a mammoth of people visiting the event. The number had been confirmed to be over 300,000 but this year it downed by half.

Anjan Shrestha, Educational Book House says that “the business has gone down to 1/4th.” He believes it is the lack of promotion that resulted in the event receiving a lukewarm response. “The fair as a whole hasn’t been able to cater to the ever growing needs of the readers. All the book stalls are offering the same thing and there is no diversity of content.” he adds further. Shrestha’s views are also supported by Kavita of Penguin Books. She says this year’s fair didn’t get much media coverage and also blames the political situation of the country for putting prospective buyers at bay.

Last year, attractive discount offers had pulled the buyers. Palpasa Café was placed at Rs.100 ; naturally people thronged to the stall to buy it making it the bestseller. But this year such offers also failed to gather sizeable audience. Also, most publishers and sellers didn’t have a wide range of books. Penguin books’ stall wore a deserted look and had put up only those books which were already bestsellers. Some complained of their grievances because their order had not reached in time owing to the Terai strike.

The exhibitors wore a disappointed look and held the organizers responsible for not putting much effort into the fair. All in all this year’s book fair was a disappointment for many including me.

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