CHENNAI: For a generation growing up obsessed with TV sitcoms, reading is restricted to Kindle, and writing is making witty observations in 140 characters. The idea of holding a paperback might not sound romantic to the millennials unless it’s promoted well. Bearing that in mind, the organisers of the annual Chennai Book Fair, the Book Publishers and Sellers Association of India (BAPASI) are making efforts to appeal to the younger generation.
An anthem for the book fair promoting the idea of reading was released recently – lyrics of which were penned by famous film lyricist, Madhan Karky. This year, the organisers have shifted the venue to Island Grounds off Kamarajar Salai from the previous venue, YMCA, Royapettah.
Gandhi Kannadasan, president of BAPASI, says this is an opportunity for the people of North Chennai to take part in the fair.
“This would be an event celebrating the people of North Chennai and we are taking books closer to them,” he said. Not surprising as the BAPASI president is also the son of celebrated poet, Kaviarasu Kannadasan, whose simple words were meant to reach people across the spectrum. “Paamaranukkum poi sera paatezhudhu (Write songs that even a layman shall appreciate),” he had said.
However, another reason for the shift in venue is the easy access through public transport from all parts of the city and the availability of parking space.
Are the publishers taking initiatives to reach the North Chennai populace, predominantly working class? Gandhi gives a pragmatic answer: “Yes, we are! After all, if people are not reading, books cannot be sold, right?”
The floods had hit the publishers hard and the postponement of the event was inevitable. “We had to respect the public mindset after the floods than worry about our own
inconveniences,” said Mayilvelan, VP of BAPASI. “Almost 20-30% of the annual revenue earned by a publishing house is from the annual book fair.”
Organisers have planned to have a separate stall for books by Tamil writers from Singapore. In a first, they’ve also invited publishers from other Indian languages such as Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam to set up stalls this year. “Chennai is becoming cosmopolitan and we have to cater to the other sections of the society too,” he added.
More than 600 stalls would be set up and the organisers are discussing the option of roping in celebrities. As for the youth, the words of George R R Martin (Game of Thrones) should help: “A mind needs a book, as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”