Of books, Colour and Fun: Delhi World Book Fair

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Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book – Stephane Mallarme

At day seven in the World Book Fair, the excitement is still palpable. Shelling out twenty rupees and braving the queue to enter the premises at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi seems a little thorn compared to the treat awaiting the visitor. Footfall has been bigger this time around say the volunteers. Hachette US publisher pavilion volunteer Arvind explains, “Last time our first day sales was Rs 2 lakh was this time around it was Rs 3.5 lakh.” The crowd is busy leafing through the various sections of the black and white Hachette stall which has distinct exhibit enough to sow seeds of dangerous curiosity. Some stalls away in Harper and Collins, Barani Kannan, Marketing Manager International and Harleguin too is happy with the number of visitors streaming in. “This time around we have seen bigger crowds, maybe because the schools are still shut and the winter this time around has not been severe.” Harper Collins is also giving its buyers 10 percent off on their purchase. National Book Trust also was offering 10 percent discount on books leaving avid readers spoilt for choice.

So what were the books that caught the fancy of visitors this time around? “Autobiographies are selling well, we had to restack our collection of Anne Frank’s diary. Then there are Indian classics which are seeing huge demand,” says Mahesh Kumar, Assistant Manager Publication sales of Prakash Books India. This distributing house turned to publishing five years ago with its company Fingerprint! The company made its debut at the Book Fair this time around and saw most visitors heading towards the classics section. This genre seems to be a hit with readers. “Our classics collection like always are doing very well,” says Alkesh Exports Sales Manager,” Penguin Random house. The classics are set in rows of red and make for an attractive sight. What about the Graphic novels, comics, the Archies, Superman,Batman editions? “Visitors rush to this section but since they are highly priced (The prices of these start from Rs 1000) sales are slow,” says Alkesh. “But our Tintin series are selling very well despite its price.” Perhaps, the packaging — colourful A3 sized comics stacked in a bright red rocket shaped book stack– has something to do with that!

At Harper Collins too it is the classics which are being picked up readily. “This time around we have a bigger stall and hence a wider range of books for readers to select from, classics remain a big hit,” says Kannan. At Hachette US, biographies of Mandela, Malala were selling well. “We had multiple queries about Mandela’s biography and hence we made it available from the second day onwards,” says Arvind. Hachette’s this time around introduced colouring books for adults, a new phenomenon which is catching the world by storm. “People stop and stare at this section, and ask questions. It is mostly women who are buying these books,” says Anushruti, an intern in the publishing house. For the uninitiated, colouring books for adults comprise of intricately designed sheets based on themes like nature, cities and is being flouted as the next big therapeutic thing. And it sure seems to be working.

Now to shifting attention to the guest country at the Book Fair: China. The pavilion which is stunningly done up never ceases to amaze: be it day one or day seven. The green of the bamboo plant offsets the white panels which display various Chinese books. There are even Chinese-Hindi translations on display. At the entrance of the pavilion sits a Chinese volunteer who creates wooden block painting of Sakyamuni preaching on Chinese paper and hands it out to the visitors who are ecstatic about receiving a free and beautiful memoir. The bright red paint evokes admiration and attraction as crowds throng around the display board which gives a backgrounder for the painting being created.

“It has been a fantastic response,” says Mingzhou Zhang, the General Manager of CCPPG International (China’s largest publisher of children’s books). A Chinese delegation of over 200 has made its way for the Book Fair. This delegation largely comprises of Chinese publishers. “It has been a tremendous experience. India has such a good collection of children’s books. We have learned much about the Indian market during our visit,” says Zhang. “We have already made contacts with Indian children’s books publishing houses for the possibility of collaboration projects.” That the 2016 Fair has become a ground for such fruitful networking spells immense possibilities for the Indian readers and publishers.

On the way out, check out the selfie corner designed to satiate your love of posing. And don’t forget to sample some street food! It is the perfect cherry on the cake: good food followed by good books!

“I wish I could stay longer here [World Book Fair],” says Zhang who leaves tomorrow for China. We couldn’t agree with the sentiment more!