The Amar Ekushey Boi Mela will be held virtually in February.
"Plans to host the Amar Ekushey Grantha Mela 2021 at its usual physical location have been suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have decided to have the fair virtually this year," Jalal Ahmed, member secretary of the book fair committee, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The committee had requested publishers planning to participate in the fair to submit a letter of interest by September 30. Five hundred publishers had shown intent. But only 120 institutions confirmed through the paid registration process by early December.
"It seemed not many organisations would be participating in the book fair given the circumstances. This was one of the reasons behind our decision in addition to the health risks involved," the secretary said.
Some publishers, however, have expressed concern. "We are not sure what a virtual book fair is, but it will definitely spell trouble. We have invested so much money, so many books have been published and printed. How will our publishing house survive the coming year?" Dibya Prakash publishers shared in a Facebook post yesterday.
Jalal said the logistical aspects and special features of the virtual fair will be finalised after the decision is officially communicated to the ministry. A press briefing will follow.
The announcement comes at a time when local publishers usually begin preparing for the biggest literary event in the country, which accounts for the largest bulk of book publication and sales each year.
Since 1972, when Chittaranjan Saha laid a mat under a mango tree to display 33 books published by Muktodhara Publishing, the month of February has gathered readers, writers, artists and publishers at the Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Udyan in commemoration of the 1952 Language Movement.