It may be Christmas where you are, and the publishing industry is sleeping off one hangover just in time for the next as the New Year celebrations begin, but elsewhere in the world it’s business as usual for publishing.
The Saudi Jeddah Book Fair and the Singapore Bookfest may have wound up on 24 December but in the world of global publishing you’ll be hard-pressed to find a gap in the events calendar.
In fact the whole of December has been busy, with the Pula Festival of Books and Authors in Croatia starting the month (Dec 1-12), then the Più Libri Più Liberi (Rome Book Fair) from December 6 through 10, and the Sofia International Book Fair in Bulgaria December 12-17.
And let’s not mention the Sao Paulo and New Delhi Comic Cons, or India’s Imphal Book Fair or India’s Patna Book Fair, both of which recently wound up.
Not that India’s love affair with books stops for Christmas.
The Puducherry Book Fair is carryingcarries on right through Christmas and until the end of the year, with 100,000 books up for grabs. The Puducherry Fair is not to be confused with the Guwahati Book Fair also running through the Christmas period.
It’s not that they don’t celebrate Christmas in India – check out this story of India’s tallest decorated Xmas tree – 65 ft tall (20 metres to those who use sensible measurements) and still growing.
But India is a big country with a lot of book lovers. That’s something we tend to lose sight of when we rely on the standard industry stats to measure national book markets from the numbers supplied by “traditional” outlets – bricks & mortar stores, online stores, ebook stores – which only show us part of the picture.
And no, I’m not talking about ebook sales from indie authors going unrecorded, but rather the many millions of books that are sold at the big book fairs.
Not just in India, but that’s a good place to start.
Kolkata’s New Town Book Fair starts on January 4, for ten days, and two days into the New Town Fair the New Delhi World Book Fair kicks off.
The New Delhi Book Fair is one of the world’s biggest book events, and at least two million people are expected. That’s the New Delhi World Book Fair in January, not to be confused with the August New Delhi Book Fair.
No sooner does the New Delhi Fair end than the Jaipur Literary Festival gets under way.
And the day after the Jaipur LitFest ends the Kolkata International Book Fair kicks off on January 30. Kolkata is traditionally the world’s biggest book fair, with close to 2.5 million people expected.
That’s over 4.5 million visitors to book events in India in the space of a month.
And coinciding with the Kolkata Fair in India will be the Lahore International Book Fair in neighbouring Pakistan, where another half a million visitors are expected.
Kolkata may be the biggest, but it’s by no means an outlier. Elsewhere in the world other book fairs are chasing that crown, with several international book fairs regularly clocking over two million visitors.
The Cairo Book Fair in Egypt, the Kuala Lumpur Book Fair in Malaysia, the Bangkok Book Fair in Thailand, the Sharjah Book Fair in the UAE, and the Teheran Book Fair in Iran are all in the two million visitors club.
All these book fairs, along with events like Big Bad Wolf, the biggest booksales in the world, are shifting millions of books worth hundreds of millions of dollars that go unnoticed by Bowker or Nielsen BookScan or Data Guy or the other stats counters that measure the global book markets.
As an example, the 2017 Teheran Book Fair sold books to the value of $38 million, while Sharjah’s book sales at the 2017 fair topped $56 million.
Stick with us here at TNPS through 2018 as we track the “invisible” global book market of book fairs, book streets, bookfests, and mega-event sales that run parallel to the “traditional” bricks & mortar/online/ebook market we in the west assume is where all the action is happening.