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18 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Relationships between a bookseller, author and publisher

Amar Ekushey Grontho Mela's politico-socio-economic character is different from other book fairs that are held around the world
Rayhan Ahmed Topader
Relationships between a bookseller, author and publisher

There is a common denominator within the relationship between author, publisher and bookseller, which is book. However, the relationship between author and his book are inseparable. What a book promise to or expect from a reader? So, there are some promises from a book but there are some expectations also from a book. What type of relationship exists between author, publishers, booksellers and book fair? I think some symbiotic relationship exists between bookseller, author and publishers. In book fair this sort of relationship can be developed and enhanced. Scientifically speaking, symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. These relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together. I believe an author, a publisher or a bookseller can succeed if they work together. So, their relationship is symbiotic in nature. This essay explores and examines such relationship.

Other publishers also joined the fair at a later date. From 1978 Bangla Academy took over the responsibility of organizing the book fair. In terms of duration of the book fair it is one of the biggest book fairs in the world. Bangla Academy also organizes literary and cultural events during book fair. Thousands of people gather to purchase books, spend time on the ground and meet authors of all genres.

Publishers take year long preparation to publish a huge number of books. The venue of the book fair and outside is decorated with banners, festoons and placards in conformity with the spirit of Amar Ekushey. This book fair's politico-socio-economic character is different from other book fairs that happened around the world. As an example in London or Frankfurt Book Fair, one cannot purchase books but can exchange publishing rights. So, what happen in book fair? Why we need book fair, bookseller or publishers? Book can be an inspiration for a warrior. Alexander of Macedonia known as Alexander the great, always carried three objects with him throughout his military campaign and that he put under his pillow every night. However, modern book trade flourishes in different shape and form. I think of one city, Paris, a city of love, food and books. It is also well known as full of literary cafes and penniless poets. As an example old café named Le Procope founded in 1686, where Voltaire drunk forty cups of coffee a day, which was known as literary stimulant for Voltaire. Campbell, a bookseller and a poet in England wrote, bookshops are time machines, spaceships, story-makers, secret keepers, dragon-tamers, dream-catchers, fact-finders and safe places. Ali Smith, a Scottish author wrote, there's something magical about bookshops, they have an eye for things, which are hidden just under the door: they unearth them.

If we look at the right bank of the river Seine, from Pont Marie to the Quai du Louvre and on the left bank from the Quai de la Touruelle to Quai Voltaire, we will find many second hand and antiquarian book selling stalls. History suggests that in 1810 Napoleon asked all book sellers to apply for a licence to trade. They need to hand in references to be certified by their local mayor to prove that they were not planning to sell rebellious publications. Sometimes, they were driven out of the city and asked them to reapply to do business. However, books also become important to the powerful. Peter Burke, in his book, Social History of Knowledge, informed that for the library of France, Napoleon's army carried off around 1500 manuscripts from the Austrian lowlands and another 1500 manuscripts from Bologna and Vatican. Stories connect people. A bookshop supplies stories. It comes in different forms, such as fiction, nonfiction and aphorisms. I have seen bookshops in almost all continents of the world. These days we have got booksellers in cities, in deserts, in the middle of a rain forest or in a boat. We have got bookshops in barns, in caravans, in a mobile van or in electronic device. A bookshop can be imagined as a mini world. In this world one country can met another country through bookshelves. There is no flight path, only bookshelves can unite authors with readers from different nationalities. The history of bookshops is not like history of library. The former needs private entrepreneurial response, whereas later gets institutional support.

A bookshop distributes but a library preserve. As an analogy one can say, one is liquid another is stable solid form. A bookshop sometimes not only a bookshop but also a dinning space for authors and readers. As an example, new Foyle bookshop in London provides such space. How a bookshop supports authors or authors support a bookshop? Bookshop named 'Shakespeare and Company' in Paris is a great example. In 1917 an American woman named Sylvia Beach came to Paris to study French literature. She was then inspired by a French poet and publisher Adrienne Monnier to open her own bookshop. Sylvia started a tiny bookshop, which in 1921 moved to 12 Rue de l'odeon, where her aim was to make her bookshop a space for writers to come, congregate and spent time. Authors such as Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Ezara Pound, Fitzgerald and James Joyce were the regular visitors. Joyce’s book, Ulysses, was turned down by American publishers on the ground of obscenity but Shakespeare and Company first published the book. One can see a memorial plaque, at 12 Rue Odéon, Paris mentioning that. In July 1920, Beach met Irish writer James Joyce at a dinner party hosted by French poet André Spire. Soon after, Joyce joined Beach's lending library. Joyce had been trying, unsuccessfully, to publish his manuscript for his masterpiece, Ulysses and Beach, seeing his frustration, offered to publish it. In 1922 Sylvia Beach published James Joyce's Ulysses in this apartment.

A man recognises his genius only upon putting it to the test. The eaglet trembles like the young dove at the moment it first unfolds its wings and entrusts itself to a breath of air. When an author composes a first work, he does not know what it is worth, nor does the bookseller. If the bookseller pays us as he wishes, we in turn sell him what we are pleased to sell him. It is success that instructs the merchant and the man of letters. This suggests an uncertainty attached to publishing a book. This not only affects booksellers, but also affects writers as well. It also indicates a symbiotic relationship between booksellers and authors. In this relationship readers are playing a big part. When a reader tries to discover a book, he or she might think book as an object and a bookshop as an archaeological site. It is not easy to find an object of interest from an archaeological site, as one might think that a site resists revealing knowledge to an explorer.

Our aim to visit a bookshop is to fulfill a wish and also the acquisition of knowledge that is not to be found in the books themselves but in the people in their vicinity. Goethe on 26 September 1786 jotted down in his "Italian Journey at last I have acquired the works of Palladio, not the original edition with woodcuts, but a facsimile with copperplate engravings published by Smith and at the end he wrote, “I had a long conversation with these friendly men and learned much about the sights of interest in the town. These clearly indicated his aim of visiting a bookshop and his acquisition of knowledge about the town itself.

One might think why we need book fair? Well, book fairs give people and definitely children a motivation to read by offering them a wide selection of books. In a fair one can get a wider selection of books from different publishers. Parents and kids get an opportunity to shop around and read books together. A book fair leaves a lasting impression on children's mind and they want to continue reading books. Book fair needs to be filled with books. It should not be a space for toys, or junk. One may offer book fairs in different ways, such as tabletop, a self-contained trailer or rolling carts. A book fair can play its part to bring those books alive and engage them with readers for interaction at different space and time. A book fair can connect authors, publishers and booksellers. It can act as a platform for developing and enhancing symbiotic relationship between authors, publishers and booksellers. Plato wrote, books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything. A publisher has a very important role to play in this soul searching mission. Booksellers need to bridge the gap between publishers and readers and book fair can be a platform which holds together all concerned. I reiterate what the prince of poets Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote about the Frankfurt Book Fair, "Here is the fair, quick, unpack and decorate your stand, come, authors, all of you, and try your luck. This is also pertinent for the Amar Ekushey Book Fair.

The writer is a regular contributor to The Independent



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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.

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