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Book Fairs in India: An Appraisal

Samuel Israel

The book fair of all book fairs, the annual one at Frankfurt, West Germany, is very different from the annual one in India. While largely attended by members of the public during the hours the fair is open to them, Frankfurt is very much a 'trade' affair. Sales of books at the fair itself are banned and, in any case, the major participants are much too busy with 'bigger things' to bother about sales of, or registering orders for, single copies of books. What they are concerned with is, essentially, the sale and purchase of 'rights', negotiation of 'co-publishing' arrangements, following up personally matters that might have been maturing for months previously through corres­pondence, cable, telex and telephone; initiating discussions on proposals that might extend to well after the four effec­tive fair days are over. The participants are either publishers or groups of publi­shers who exhibit only their own products. Book distributors, whether wholesale or retail, do not exhibit (as they do in India). They do, of course, attend in large num­bers and are important as bulk buyers. Some of the group participation is national, like the exhibits organized by the National Book trust, India, and the British Council. Briefly, companies in advanced pub­lishing countries regard the fair primarily as an annual market for international sale and acquisition of material for publication. Only secondarily does Frankfurt serve as a venue for the exhibition of the year's publications for the benefit of the inter­national book trade. Even less does inter­national publishing depend on Frankfurt to acquaint the scholarly world and other users of books with their wares. The pioneering All-India Book Exhi­bition organized in New Delhi in 1964 and the 85 Regional Book Exhibitions organized in various parts of the country since then by the National Book Trust (NBT) have been exhibitions of recent Indian books with only limited sales faci­lities, mostly confined to sales of NBT publications. They were mounted for the benefit of the general public: to give them an opportunity to see and examine a selec­tion of books the Indian publishing indus­try had to offer. The industry and the book trade did, of course, benefit from these exhibitions in so far as they publi­cized the books exhibited and led visitors to later purchase from bookshops the books that interested them. Neither publishers nor book distributors parti­cipated in ...

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