Happy New Year! In Bangladesh, that is, where 1425 has just begun, and among myriad celebrations to celebrate the New Year is a ten day book fair organised by the Bangla Academy.
A book fair in Bangladesh?
If you’re new here you could be forgiven for wondering if they even have bookstores in Bangladesh, such is the invisibility of the global book markets beyond a handful of key countries.
But in fact Bangladesh has a thriving book culture and, despite the very real problems of production and distribution, there is growing demand for books.
Okay, let’s pause here to address that niggling concern about that date.
1425? That’s under the Bangla calendar, introduced to the region that is now Bangladesh way back, by our Gregorian calendar, in 1556, by the Moghul Emperor Akbar.
Never ones to miss out on an excuse to party, Bangladeshis get to celebrate the Bangla New Year and the Gregorian New Year. And what better way to mark the new year than a ten day book fair?
It’s the second major book fair in Dhaka so far this Gregorian year, with the February Amar Ekushey Boi Mela still fresh in the mindd of Bangladeshi booklovers.
At which point you may be thinking, “What, both of them?”
Yes, the stereotypes run deep out there, especially when it comes to nations and peoples that “don’t read.”
And that’s part of the TNPS mission – to challenge the nonsensical idea that in some parts of the world people simply don’t read, and that the book markets in some part of the world are simply not worth bothering with.
Take Bangladesh as an example.
This latest book fair from the Bangla Academy comes just six weeks after the aforementioned Amar Ekushy Boi Mela finished.
The Amar Ekushey Boi Mela? Only the longest duration book fair in the world, lasting the entire month of February, every year.
This year the Dhaka boi mela (book fair) sold books to the value of almost $10 million.
Bangladesh Amar Ekushey Boi Mela sells $9.6 million of books in 28 day event
And what’s most exciting about it is the way social media (yes, they have the internet in Bangladesh too – see below) is driving more and more people to these fairs, spending more and more cash on books, as this graphic demonstrates.
That’s just from people physically attending the event in the capital. Imagine how many more might buy books if they were more readily accessible. As ebooks, for example.
But the sad reality is the Big 5 ebook retailers don’t even recognise Bangladesh exists.
As reported here at TNPS, PRH India is belatedly taking an interest in the Bangladesh book market (so long as they agree to write in English) –
Penguin Random House India asks Bangladeshi authors to write in English
but there is little chance Amazon will venture this way. Apple’s ebook store is conspicuously absent across most of Asia. Not even Google Play is there.
Yet this is the tenth largest country on the planet by number of internet users.
Yes, you read that right. Bangladesh has more people connected to the internet than any country in Europe except Russia. In fact is has more people online than there are people in the UK.
Yet bizarrely the country that hosts the world’s longest duration book fair hasn’t got any meaningful access to ebooks.
Later this year the Big Bad Wolf book sales will hit Dhaka. No dates yet, but it will happen –
World’s biggest book sale heading to Bangladesh, Dubai, Korea and Taiwan this year
Given the success of the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela this year I’d be very surprised if Big Bad Wolf didn’t turn up at Dhaka with upwards of two million books for the debut event (at the just finished Big Bad Wolf Jakarta event in Indonesia some 5.5 million books were up for grabs).
Meantime few indications of the scale of the latest ten day book fair in Dhaka.
More news on that as it emerges, as we continue our mission to plot the Global New Renaissance as it happens, day by day.