The pandemic-induced delays in starting the Amar Ekushey Book Fair have generated mixed reactions among authors and publishers.
As with the previous years, Bangla Academy will organise the annual book fair at Suhrawardy Udyan. The date of the fair has not yet been finalised.
A proposal to begin the annual event on any of the three probable dates – 20 February or 17 and 27 March – will be sent to the prime minister for her consent.
"We have talked to the authors and publishers who want the fair to be actual, not virtual, and that is what we all have agreed to," said State Minister for Culture KM Khalid at a news conference after a view exchange meeting with the writers and publishers on Sunday.
The book fair had to be postponed due to the raging pandemic, however, there is nothing to worry about that the fair is going to be virtual this time, added the junior minister.
The ministry wants to wrap up the fair before Ramadan, however, if the Covid situation turns worse, it might be canceled this year.
Bangla Academy Director General Habibullah Siraji said: "The fair of this year is not just about the decision of Bangla Academy or the ministry. There are many issues involved with it."
With the permission of the Prime Minister, all possible preparations will be made to hold the fair retaining the spirit of Amar Ekushey even if it is delayed, he added.
The publishers, however, gave mixed reaction to the decision. They said the fair could have been organised in February as everything is going on as per the rules.
However, the announcement that the fair will be held has allayed their fear.
The publishers said their business is not good due to the pandemic as schools, colleges and universities are shut.
"We expected the fair to be held at its usual time as it did earlier. If it had happened, our already incurred losses would have been mitigated to some extent," they added.
But they hope that if the weather is not too hostile, and if there is a physical fair, they can overcome some of their losses.
Bangladesh Knowledge and Creative Publishers' Association president and Samay Prakashani proprietor Farid Ahmed said they told the government that they would like to end the fair by March.
"In this case, our proposal was to start the book fair from February," said the leader.
"In a letter to the ministry concerned and Bangla Academy, we have requested the authorities to kick off the Ekushey event within February. If it is not possible to hold that by February, let it start by 7 March, but not go beyond that date."
Anyaprokash Publisher Mazharul Islam said: "Since the date for the fair will be finalised by the Prime Minister, we are appealing to her not to hold the event after March."
It will be the best to start the fair at a date in February and end it in March, or start in the first week of March, he added.
The publisher stressed that the weather issue be taken into consideration before fixing the schedule for the fair since inclement weather is a bar to the event.
Asked what kind of loss they will incur if there is no fair, Mazharul said: "We cannot think that there will be no book fair this year. It may be deferred, but it is unlikely that the fair will not be organised."