Ekushey Book Fair attracted a huge crowd on Friday amid the ongoing lockdown, but the publishers claimed that the book sale was very low as people at the fair were mostly visitors, not buyers.
While a number of pavilions and stalls sold well, there were some stalls that did not sell any book at all.
Very few people visited the book fair in the last few days since the government imposed the latest lockdown. After public transport resumed their services on Wednesday, people thronged to the fair in the Suhrawardy Udyan and the Bangla Academy premises on the weekend. Many of them were not wearing masks, and not maintaining the social distancing rules either.
Cynthia, who came to visit the fair with her family, told The Business Standard, "I thought there would be very few people at the fair amid the lockdown, so I came not to buy books, but just to roam around. But now I feel I am in danger and afraid of getting infected with the novel coronavirus."
Habibullah, a book lover at the fair, said, "The public transport is running, so I came today to buy books by my favorite authors. When I came, there were very few people here, but now I see a huge crowd. However, many of them have come to visit only; the stalls are not so crowded."
Mahfuzur Rahman, an official of Bhorer Shishir Prakashani, said "This year's fair is a severe blow to publishers like us. This fair cannot be called even an exhibition, because these days no one is coming to see the stalls. There is a crowd today, but not even 10% of them are buying books."
Rokeya Akhter, an employee of Shila Prakasani, said, "This year's fair is a complete loss project for us. We cannot even earn our daily conveyance through the sales at the stall. Some days our sales do not even reach Tk100."
Elijah Ahmed of Annesha Prakashani told TBS, "There was no crowd at the fair in the last few days as mainly genuine book lovers came here. Today a large number of visitors have come but the book sale is not good."
Despite Friday's poor sales, the publishers expect to sell well in the next few days and they will wait till the last day of the fair.
Meanwhile, more than 150 publishers have shut down their stalls. Besides, a number of publishers decorated their stalls in a limited fashion to sell books.
Sumaiya, an official of Mayurpankhi Prakashani, said, "I have kept a small number of books in the stall as there is not much sale. In fact, attending the fair is the main thing to us. It is not a fair for business, it is just an exhibition."
Falgun Ahmed, an employee of Deslai Prakashani, said, "135 stalls were shifted to the Little Magazine Corner from the east side of the fair on 24 March. Now only 15-20 stalls are remaining open here."
Bangla Academy Library Assistant Shubra Barua told TBS that the decision to keep the fair open till 14 April is still in effect as no new decision has been taken.
Mentioning that 88 new books have been launched in the fair on Friday, he said so far 2,421 books have been launched in the fair.
The 37th Amar Ekushey Book Fair started on 18 March this year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. A total of 540 institutions have been allotted stalls and pavilions at the Bangla Academy premises and Suhrawardy Udyan for this year's fair. Of these, 154 units were allotted to 107 institutions in the academy premises and 680 units were allotted to 433 institutions in Suhrawardy Udyan. Besides, there are 33 pavilions of different publishing houses.