Career-focused content a big draw as Book Fair returns to capital

The festival, which plays host to France as its guest of honour, was inaugurated by 2022 Literature Nobel Laureate, Annie Ernaux

Debarghya Sanyal New Delhi
Book Fair

Minisha Das, a Class XI student, is happy to be back at the fair she said she loved most. “Of the things I missed in the past couple of years, the Book Fair is one,” she says, as she purchases a book on preparatory materials for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE), which she is due to take next year.
But the shift in preference for books is evident. “The last time I bought a few novels, but now I have to prepare for competitive examinations next year. The selection of exam guides is quite affordable and comprehensive here,” she says.

Books focussed on competitive examinations, such as the JEE and UPSC, appeared to be the biggest draw at the 31st edition of the Delhi book fair, being held at Pragati Maidan after a two-year hiatus from February 25 to March 5.
From guidebooks to question banks, course materials, and even flashcards for last-minute preparation, the abundance of study materials at the fair dwarfs the pie-share of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry texts. The fair, organised by the National Book Trust (NBT) and the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), is also scripting the return of the stalls of familiar publications such as Harper Collins, Rupa, Penguin, Amar Chitra Katha, and more. 

Book Fair

This year, the fair is celebrating the theme of “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence. As part of this, 75 writers selected through a competition and mentored by established authors under the Prime Minister’s YUVA (Young Upcoming Versatile Author) Scheme — will launch their books. Moreover, the NBT will also release 100 titles published under its India@75 series.

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The festival, which plays host to France as its guest of honour, was inaugurated by 2022 Literature Nobel Laureate, Annie Ernaux.
However, even as the annual booklover’s fest attempts to return to its old avatar — complete with a children’s section, story-telling sessions, and talks by renowned authors — it also reflected a marked shift in the average urban Indian’s reading needs and patterns.

This year's fair also has an Ed-Tech Zone in the new National Education Policy (NEP) pavilion, dedicated to digital players and non-profit organisations showcasing their online courses, products, and services.
A school teacher, who accompanied about 100 students to the fair, points out that their school had asked teachers to supply children with a list of books that will be helpful for them in school projects, and course practice. The list included practice materials for middle- and high-school mathematics, sciences, and English grammar.

Even second-hand books are doing good business at the fair. “I have been a regular at the fair, and we usually see students buying used copies of literary classics and poetry collections. Since exam materials are updated every year, we usually don’t keep too many used copies on the stands. However, students are buying old editions for practice as well,” Ratan Jain, seller of second-hand books at the fair, tells Business Standard.

Book Fair

The right education is key
The high demand for exam guides and course supplements is not the only symptom of an increased focus on children’s careers. Simran Sachdeva, who was visiting the fair with her two primary school-going children, stresses the need to “push kids in the right direction early on.”

Eighteen of the 20 books purchased were encyclopaedias, “fun-science”, and “how things work”. The remaining two were brief biographies of Albert Einstein and Marie Curie.
The organisers have doubled down on the effort to develop the fair as a venue for discussing educational policies and building teaching infrastructure. There are special pavilions dedicated to India’s G20 Presidency and the NEP. The theme pavilion focuses on India’s 75-year-old history post-Independence. Several sections and stalls can be found dedicated to the life and thoughts of India’s current political leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Yuvraj Malik, director of National Book Trust India, says, “There is also a dedicated lounge for business meetings and discussions, which is being visited by policymakers from states, stakeholders from the education sector, teachers, students, parents, etc.”

Book Fair

The venue had a fair share of traditional book connoisseurs, too. “For us, the book fair was all about getting lost in titles, discovering new gems and forgotten classics. My favourite haunts were the used-book stalls. Now, children are here searching for the “right book” to read, which will help them with their careers, and do well in exams. Comic book stalls are a rare breed, and I haven’t found a single volume of good poetry.

Spiritual and devotional book stalls are the only genre category that seems to dominate the fair this year.


·    Cultural evenings in the amphitheatre with live youth bands, army bands, and folk and traditional music and dance performances.
·      Bande dessinée comics at the French pavilion

·      Stalls and pavilions from countries, including the UAE, Germany, Spain, Bangladesh, etc.
·      Story-telling sessions in the children’s section

First Published: Feb 28 2023 | 6:30 AM IST

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