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Chennai Book Fair: Getting lit, virtually

Chennai Book Fair: Getting lit, virtually
on Jan 19, 2022
image source : https://www.newindianexpress.com/

Every January, the yearly Chennai Book Fair - considered the second biggest in the nation - draws more than 1,000,000 book lovers to the sprawling YMCA Grounds in Nandanam. Major publishing houses (regional and English) from across the country count on this lucrative opportunity to expand their loyal clientele and make profits in business. However, their ambitious plans for this year have been disrupted by the virus, yet again.  

Finding themselves at this COVID-induced crossroads, a few from the fraternity have joined hands to endure this third wave with a vigorous pursuit to keep the publishing industry afloat. It is with this promise, and the offering of 5,000 titles from over 25 publishers, that The Virtual Book Fair was launched on January 14 to bring the publisher-reader community closer.

"By far, book fairs have been the best place for publishers and readers to understand each other. We wanted to provide a platform that connects everyone under one roof and VBF is one such initiative. This is why we say we are not in competition with any organisation, rather we are an extension to their effort," says Karthikeyan Pugalendi of Sixth Sense Publications, a founding member.

After a year of writing drafts, revising and brainstorming, the website is now available for a global audience. "Publishers with a proper website, and capable of processing payments would have already realised the potential of going digital. Some are even adept at using social media to sell their products, without a website. But the majority of us publishers rely heavily on e-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart, who have frozen their inventory except for essentials, to sell their books. Instead of finding a quick fix for our problems, the publishing industry needs to build something concrete using our collective customer bases," he points out.

While the idea is to provide a one-stop solution for publishers by presenting a virtual storefront that emulates the feel of a book fair, the ultimate objective is to build a nationwide selling network without losing out on the individuality of every publisher.

"There will be a set of customisations that could be done by each publisher on their storefront - putting up banners, altering the display (for now 2D) like in a physical book fair and others. The site will have in-built functionalities that offer space for reviews and literary activities with the social media plug-ins. We’ve been receiving good responses from users," shares Karthikeyan.                                                                         

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