Ekushey Boi Mela has become a festival. It’s become part of middle-class civil society, not the economic middle class, but the cultural middle class that buys books, reads books, and has shelves at home. They are the writers, readers and publishers, they are the only players in the book fair.
Covid attacked. While there had been a relative drop in Covid transmissions last year, the fair had been postponed. When it was held, the spread of Covid had been high and the fair had to be hastily closed two days earlier.
The question may arise, books can be purchased all year round, so why have a month-long book fair? The fact remains that most publishers do not have a point of sale in the city. They sell their books to other stores and often cannot get their money back. At a fair, they can display their books and attract customers. Readers can browse the wide range of books. That is why, except for a few, all publishers publish their books with the Ekushey Boi Mela in mind. We must bear in mind that not all readers are the same. Many are not comfortable buying books online. They buy books at the fair.
Covid isn’t going away anytime soon and things haven’t stopped. The book fair should continue, respecting the health instructions as much as possible. There are a lot of people who come to the fair just to hang out, less interested in the books. This crowd can be limited to some extent by selling admission tickets through banks, as in the case of tickets for cricket matches. If a ticket is 100 taka, Bangla Academy will receive 10 taka and the remaining 90 taka will be adjusted with all books purchased. Children under 12 will not need tickets.
Let the fair be held, if only for two weeks. Launches, buses, trains and planes are running, the show is in full swing. Elections are held with thousands of people gathering in rallies and processions. So why not the book fair?