Ramadan is due to start mid-April, and after that the rains will be underway… But at the same time publishers cannot agree to an outright cancellation until 2022, because they cannot afford to lose what revenue they might hope to pull in this year.
Traditionally the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela, the largest book fair in Bangladesh, takes place regular as clockwork from the first day until the last day of February, 2020 being an exception when the event began February 2.
Typically sales come in at around $10 million, and for that reason even a suggestion that the boi mel might go virtual this year was quickly shot down by publisher interests, who like many publishing stakeholders across South Asia, have little appetite for digital disruption.
While that’s understandable give few publishers are in a position to fully benefit from a virtual event, it might be considered a missed opportunity not to have adopted a hybrid approach and at least offered a semblance of online engagement for the many who will be wary of attending the event in person, and that would test the water for future digital development.
In fact a virtual event was briefly entertained, but briefly being the operative word.
There are now three dates in the running – February 20, March 7 and March 17 – with the final decision resting with the government.
With Covid-19 vaccinations just starting to get underway there is little prospect the pandemic will disappear any time soon, and a lower-than-normal turnout for the boi mel seems inevitable, but there also seems no appetite to try push the fair back until much later in the year and instead the dates have become race against time.
Ramadan is due to start mid-April, and after that the rains will be underway – a big problem for an out-of-doors event like this. Pushing the event back until after the summer rains subside means it would happen too close for comfort to the 2022 event. But at the same time publishers cannot agree to an outright cancellation until 2022, because they cannot afford to lose what revenue they might hope to pull in this year.