• Saturday, December 20, 2014

Freedom in the air

Political turmoil grips booksellers

Sohel Parvez
Falling sales have become a common phenomenon at bookstores across the city of late because of the ongoing political impasse. Photo: Star
Falling sales have become a common phenomenon at bookstores across the city of late because of the ongoing political impasse. Photo: Star

After a long time, Israt Jahan, manager of the bookstore Charcha, on Friday seemed pleased with the day's takings.
Thanks to it being a bank holiday and free from any sorts of political activism, the bookstore located at the Concord Emporium Shopping Complex of Katabon logged in Tk 3,464 in sales.
"It is really satisfying," she said, adding that her daily sales since October 26, when the political turmoil started, topped Tk 1,500, down from the usual Tk 10,000.
The falling sales, it turns out, has been a common phenomenon at bookstores across the city of late.
“People are just not in the right frame of mind now to buy books. Plus, new book arrivals have been slow, so there isn't much going on for the book lovers,” said the owner of a bookstore at Aziz Super Market asking not to be named.  
The depressing outlook, however, does not bode well for the Ekushey Book Fair. Held at the Bangla Academy premises every February, it is the biggest annual congregation of book lovers, writers and publishers, allowing most publishers to generate nearly 80 percent of their yearly sales.
"Book sales have been very low since the last book fair. We have never passed such a bad time," said Arifur Rahman Nayeem, chief executive of Oitijjhya, a publishing house, adding that books sales experienced a drop during the political unrest in 2006.


“The effect then was short-lived, but this time it has been going on and on. If it drags on to February, it will impact the turnout in the coming book fair.”
He said publishers usually start printing new books in January as part of their preparation for the book fair, but this time many of them have been “very shaky”: they are going slow with the printing and are planning to churn out lower volumes of books as well.
"We are afraid that readers will not visit," said Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, chief executive of Shuddhashar, another publisher.
Usually the publisher prints 100 books during the book fair, but this year it will print 50 new books, he said.
"We dream of a good fair but we cannot free ourselves from the fear of uncertainty after what happened last year – it still haunts us."
The 2013's edition of the fair saw book sales plummet to Tk 10 crore from Tk 26 crore recorded in the year before -- due to low turnout, brought about by non-stop mass demonstration by Gonojagoron Moncho from the first week of February.
The number of publication of new books also fell to 2,993 from 3,669 in 2012, according to data from Bangla Academy.
"It is very likely that the current political and economic situation will have an effect on book fair," said Osman Gani, president of an association of books publishers, Bangladesh Gayan O Srijonsil Prokashak Samity.

Published: 12:00 am Sunday, January 12, 2014

Last modified: 9:04 pm Sunday, January 12, 2014

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