The World of Books 2011, a book fair organised by Bangalore University was held in September from 2nd to 11th. The fair was jointly organised with Indya comics and supported by Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation, Department of Public Libraries, Able Advertising, Kannada Pustaka Pradhikara, Oxford Book Store and Hachette India. Book lovers looking to browse through titles on fiction and non-fiction turned up with attendance peaking during the weekend.

English language books covered the maximum floor space and the books ranged from fiction to technical. The government publishing arms were represented by the Sahitya Akademi and the National Book Trust. They had books in a variety of Indian languages and across a wide spectrum of interests. The brick and mortar stores were represented by Oxford and Reliance Time Out. Some of the other notable stalls included Hachette India and Taxmann Publishing.

A fair number of stalls were taken by Kannnada book publishers who found a space to market and sell their latest editions. Some well known Kannada publishers were Vijaya Vahini Publishers, JSS Mahavidya Peetha, Kannada Sahitya Parishad, Hemanth Sahitya, Kannada Pustaka Pradhikara, Beechi Prakashana and Prasannaganga (by Kannada University, Hampi; University of Mysore ; Banaglore University).

A very large religious and spiritual book presence was from Saalam Centre, Ramakrishna Math & ISKON. A very interesting stall was that of Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers from Delhi offering a very large selection of books relating to India in English, Sanskrit and other Indian languages.

Now moving to the opinionated part, the fair was neither a reader’s delight nor a meeting ground for publishers. Bangalore being the IT capital of India, the organisers could have used social media networks to advertise the fair effectively. It hardly got a mention in the local newspapers nor was well reported online. This was hardly surprising, given that a majority of the English books available were meant for the pulping plant or best used as raw material for paper bags. There were ancient encyclopedias and dated travel books by the hundreds.

The Kannada publishers seemed to prefer putting out self-help books more than anything else. The tired, run down point-of-purchase displays were anything but eye-catching. There were hardly any noteworthy titles or interesting fiction to get sales moving. Titles on religion and spirituality enjoyed the largest floor space.

Bangalore is a bustling metropolis with people from all over the country. It has a large number of multilingual readers whose appetite for books in other regional languages is not satisfied by regular book stores. Non-Kannada regional language publishing names failed to turn up, losing a chance to find their readers from the multi-lingual city of Bangalore.

The big name Brick and mortar stores chose to stay away and only two were present. Despite their growing success in India, Online sellers such as Flipkart, and India Plaza etc., were strangely absent. The fair would have offered them a platform to widen their user base and impress potential buyers with their extensive catalogues and 24×7 convenience.

The layout of the fair left much to be desired: the aisles were poorly and unevenly laid out and hot food stalls were placed side by side with books. One would have expected a book fair to have ample browsing zones and comfortable seating, but not here.

Hopefully, publishers of other Indian languages and online retailers will be tempted to make an entry and make the fair more attractive for a larger audience.