Millennium Post

Currency crunch may hit Int’l Kolkata Book Fair 2017, other book events

What is worse, the paucity of cash is likely to impact the prestigious International Kolkata Book Fair–scheduled from January 25 to February 5, 2017 – adversely.

The organizers Publishers and Booksellers Guild are apprehensive that with the public not comfortable with cash transactions, smaller publishers, especially of Bengali books, will see a 
dip in sales. 

“We suspect they will not be even able to sell too many titles unless they buy machines that can transact cards. The larger publishing houses have the option of accepting cards and using Internet banking in lieu of cash at the world’s largest open air book fair,” Tridib Chatterjee, Secretary of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild told Millennium Post. Last year, the footfall was an astounding 2.5 million for the 10 day book jamboree.

Chatterjee says that the cash dilemma has already affected at least 400 smaller book fairs of Bengal and Eastern India which are held between November and March every year.  

Chatterjee is apprehensive that some of these smaller fairs are already facing the music – an acute scarcity of buyers. Publishers will incur heavy losses, he rued. “I am attending a Delhi book fair for Bengali books at the moment. The turnout is dismal, thanks to the cash crisis. Usually, we see brisk sales of popular Bengali books every year,” added Chatterjee. Similarly, two book fairs held at Guwahati and Tatanager recently saw very little enthusiasm amongst booklovers and the public at large.

Kolkata’s College Street, usually swarming with booklovers and students, wears a deserted look these days. One of College Street’s busiest bookstores, selling popular Bengali titles, Dey’s Publishing, has suffered huge losses this month. 

“We have just done 5 per cent of our normal business in November. College Street is virtually empty,” says Subhankar Dey, proprietor of the store. Dey’s had planned  big book releases for the Kolkata Book Fair, 2017. “One hopes the cash crisis will be over by end-January. We are ready with new titles and glitzy book launches – including one by Gulzar and one by Soumendu Ray, Satyajit Ray’s favourite cameraperson,” Dey adds.

With buying of books not being high on the agenda of a cash-strapped public who want to just spend on essentials like food and medicine, publishers and distributors Rupa & Co is also experiencing a drop in sales. “Our retail counters in College Street and New Market are seeing lower footfalls ever since the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes went off circulation. 

Naturally, our distribution business has been adversely affected. Sales have taken a beating even for Internet transactions, where Cash on Delivery(CoD) is concerned,” Raju Burman, a partner of Rupa & Co told Millennium Post. Rupa has published all of Chetan Bhagat’s 
popular books.

With 1000 rupee notes out of coinage, readers are finding it difficult to cough up cash for books with a  billing of over Rs 1000. So far as the Kolkata book fair is concerned, Barman is keeping his fingers crossed. “One can only hope that if the currency  crisis is resolved soon, the 41st edition of the Kolkata Book Fair will be held with usual fanfare. But as of now, one can’t say,” he sums up.
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