Exactly a month after the announcement of demonetisation, publishers in College Street, the hub of publishing industry here, are feeling the pinch as sales have plummeted to one-tenth of the corresponding period in recent years.
“The situation is really bad ever since the Rs 500 and 1000 notes were banned all of a sudden as cash transaction in College Street, popularly called Boi Para, has gone down to 1/10th as compared to the corresponding period in recent years,” Tridib Chatterjee, Secretary of publishers apex body, Publishers and Book Sellers’ Guild said.
Chatterjee said he was speaking on the basis of the feedback received by his own publication ‘Patrabharati’ and other book shops and publishers in the area.
A book stall owner near Presidency University, which sells textbooks and guide books for competitive exams, said cash transactions which used to be the major source of earning in all these years have now taken a dip.
“Sale usually peaks during winter but this time it is showing a downward slide as far as College Street book market, is concerned in the past one month,” Chatterjee said.
On whether the trend would continue during the coming International Kolkata Book Fair, Chatterjee said he did not know if the cash flow would be better by then.
“But we are asking all participants to introduce card swipe machines in the stalls,” he added.
Last year the Book Fair registered Rs 20-25 crore in book sales. “But we are committed to organise the book fair retaining the same glory and ensure participation of the public. It is a global event,” he said.
“We are going through a very difficult period. With the exception of a few publishers, most are struggling to stay afloat as most of the trade is cash-dependent,” said the owner of ‘Nabo Chalontika’, a publisher whose office is located next to Indian Coffee House.
The situation is no better in the ongoing local book fairs organised in the districts and in and around the city.
Sudhangshu Sekhar De, another senior guild member and organiser of the prestigious International Kolkata Book Fair, said the fair authorities have advised all the participants to opt for card swipe machines.
The International Kolkata Book Fair, the biggest in the world in terms of footfalls, will be held between January 25 and February 5, 2017.
Meanwhile, in the local book fairs, organized in the run up to the landmark Kolkata Book Fair, the situation has been dismal.
“The crowd is there but the book sale has halved in all book fairs across the state from ‘Bangur Boi Parbon’, ‘Bardhaman Boi Mela’, ‘Siliguri Boi Mela’ to ‘Sonarpur Boi Mela’, one of the biggest regional book fairs in South 24 Parganas.
“In the fairs, while some buyers are asking for card swipe machines which most stalls do not have, arguments are ensuing over change as most are producing a Rs 2000 note for a Rs 150 Bengali comic or a Rs 300 Bengali short story collection. The people manning the stalls do not have so much change,” another guild official, associated with most of the book fairs over the years, said.
“We are offering 40 per cent flat discount. Still the crowds are fewer,” a stall owner at ‘Bangur Boi Parbon’ said.
Author Samaresh Majumder said going by the craze for books among Bengali readers and popularity of smaller book fairs in different towns over the years, he was confident that the slump will end and both the readers and publishers will find ways to cope with the situation.