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15 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Ekushey Book Fair 2018

Sheikh Iraj
Ekushey Book Fair 2018

The annual Amar Ekushey Book Fair is the main book fair of our country. The month-long fair in February is dedicated to the language martyrs of February 21, 1952 who sacrificed their lives during a demonstration in Dhaka to establish Bangla as the state language of then East Pakistan. People of all ages and background visit the fair, which is held at the Bangla Academy and Suhrawardy Udyan premises in the capital, to get the latest book releases at discount prices, meet some of their favourite authors, and enjoy cultural programmes.  

Sofikul Alam, 22, a student of Bangla College in Mirpur, was seen browsing through new books at a stall at the fair recently. “Every year, I visit the book fair with my family and friends. Every day, new books are being launched. We get to meet writers and other like-minded people who love books. Indeed, this book fair provides a magnificent platform for book-lovers and writers,” he said.

Like in recent years, electronic books were one of the main attractions of the fair. This year, about five e-book stalls have been set up at the fair and nearly all of them are receiving tremendous response from young readers.

Jahirul Islam, a parent, was buying some e-books form the stall of ‘Kali o Kalam’ stall. “I am buying some e-books for myself and my 10-year-old boy. The best thing about these e-books is they offer classical books for free. At this particular stall, one can start buying e-books for Taka 40 only. One can easily buy a number of books within a small budget. Also, the e-book publication companies have different offers for their customers,” he said.

Jakir Hassan, assistant manager at ‘Sheiboi’, another e-book stall, said: “We are giving 500 classical books for free. Our books start from Taka 5. We started our journey three years ago and one cannot deny that today’s youths are very tech savvy. Many of them opt to read books on their mobile phones or tabs. Right now, most of the e-book publishers are receiving soft copies from the writers. After we come to an arrangement with the writer or publication house, we give them 70 per cent of the profit and we keep 30 per cent as maintenance cost.” Customers who buy e-books worth Taka 150 will get a free T-shirt, he added.

The Children’s Corner of the fair, located at Suhrawardy Udyan, always remains crowded. Children with their parents and students can be seen visiting one stall after another. “I developed my passion for reading and buying books from my grandfather. He first brought me to the Ekushey Book Fair in 2006 and from then on, I have been in love with books. Every year, I buy books for my friends, family members and of course, for myself. I like to read all kinds of books,” said Nafiz Rafsan, a student at a private university.

Nafisa Sultana, another private university student, was taking selfies with her friends at the entrance of the Children’s Corner. “I have come to visit the fair with my friends. I got to meet a few of my favourite writers and I got autographs from them as well. I have visited some wonderful children’s book stalls and I am planning to buy some books for my nephews,” she said.  

Alongside paper books, interactive, digital or animated books are also attracting children and youths. Many parents and teachers are motivating their children or students to buy the books, which come with pop-ups, audiovisual CDs or QR codes. These books can be used as study material for children. Rashel Mridha, who was buying some books from the stall of ‘Da Pop-up Factory’, said: “I believe such books allow children to learn quickly. Today, children want something new and interesting and I believe these books are providing them with that.”

Bijoy Software, which sells different types of educational and video tutorial application software and DVDs, also has a stall at the Children’s Corner. M Saiful Islam, stall manager, said: “We have been coming to this book fair for the past 10 years. We have educational and video tutorial application software DVDs for students up to class 3.”

The stall of Dhaka Comics was attracting many enthusiastic youths. Mehdi Haque, a cartoonist and publisher of Dhaka Comics, said, “In our country, we have many comic book fans. But we didn’t have any Bangladeshi comic book publishing houses. When we went to the established publishing houses, they discouraged us. Then I, along with some of my friends, decided to start Dhaka Comics in 2013. The main idea was to promote talented young cartoonists and comic writers. In the beginning, we had to face many difficulties. This year, we have 24 comic books at our stall and we are going to launch six new comics this year. At the moment, we have 13 team members, comprising both writers and cartoonists. Many of our members are students. Dhaka Comics can be considered as an open platform for those who are interested in creating comic stories or cartoons.”

Sultana Akter, a volunteer at the stall ‘Pankhiraj’ publication, said: “I am a student of Eden Mohila College and I am doing this to gather experience. This year, we have 50 children’s books on display and we are expecting 10 more books to arrive at our stall before the fair ends.”  

Nafe Nazrul, a writer and owner of ‘Soptodinga’ publishing house, said: “The fair is going to become more crowded after February 15. This year, we have released 20 new books for our readers. We only publish children’s books.”

Everyone has a right to visit the book fair and read or buy books they want. Many physically challenged, visually impaired or elderly persons cannot always visit the fair by themselves. To help them get around, SWITCH Bangladesh, a non-profit, with support from CSF Global and Bangla Academy, has been providing free wheelchair services at the fair since 2016.  

“Many elderly or physically challenged people want to visit the fair, but many a time they cannot. We are here to assist them with that. Every day, 15 volunteers, who are mostly students, come here to help them. We have about 15 manual wheelchairs available. Whoever is in need of our help can find us in front TSC (of Dhaka University) or at the main entrance of the fair. There are about 50 volunteers working with us,” Mustafizur Rahman, a student working for SWITCH Bangladesh, told this reporter. “We are not doing this for any kind of publicity, we genuinely want to help. Today, more than 10 elderly and physically-challenged persons approached us. Some of them had not visited the fair in decades. Just looking at how they were enjoying themselves gives us the inspiration to volunteer for things like this.”

‘Sporsho Brail Publication’ started its journey at the book fair in 2008. The main purpose of the publication house is to motivate visually-impaired persons to read books. Sheikh Robiul Islam, stall manager at Sporsho Brail Publication, said: “It has been 10 years since we have coming to this fair. Every day, many book-lovers are coming to our stall. So far, we have published 61 Braille books for those who are visually impaired. Out of those books, 14 are on display this year. Every year, we receive an overwhelming response from visitors and the media. I don’t know if any other publication house of our country publishes books in Braille. We hope they, too, will publish Braille books in future.”     

Ashique Mustafa, a young writer, was busy giving autographs to his fans. “The main stage of the Ekushey book fair is just beside Nazrul Mancha at Bangla Academy. Throughout the fair, different cultural programmes are held there. Of course, for a long time now this venue has been considered as a place for writers to meet and greet fans and colleagues. From the very start of this year’s fair, we can see many young people visiting the place,” he told Y&I.

The Bangla Academy information centre keeps visitors and the media up to date about the launch of new books and provides information on the locations of different stalls. This year, 719 stalls and 455 publication houses are participating at the fair, Jalal Ahmed, member secretary of Ekushey Book Fair, told this correspondent. The fair is open to all from 3pm to 9pm daily, and from 11am onwards at weekends.

Photos: Nabiulla Nabi, File.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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