Despite a rain-drenched morning, the 22nd edition of Delhi Book Fair at Pragati Maidan is reasonably abuzz with activity. The bigger, better version is the New Delhi World Book Fair, which usually takes place in February – so the Delhi Book Fair is best treated like a starter to the main course.
This is the last weekend of the fair, so if you’re planning on a visit, expect crowds. For bibliophiles though, this annual book fair has a lot to offer: from popular novels and bestsellers to literary treats and educational material for the academically inclined.
An added attraction is the fact that there are plentiful discounts. A range of books in English literature, classics and popular fiction, can be bought for as little as ₹20 or ₹30. But you have to sift through heaps of books lying scattered in the stalls.
“The book fair is great place to explore especially if you are a popular fiction enthusiast like me,” says college student Hitaishi Bhatia. From bestsellers like the George RR Martin’s Songs of Fire and Ice series (the books that inspired the hit TV show Game of Thrones) to the Harry Potter series to classic and perennial favourites such as the works of Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad or Mark Twain, books are available at heavy discounts.
Read more: Here are the best deals available at the ongoing Delhi Book Fair
The fair, organised by the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), in association with Federation of Indian Publishers, has around 250 stalls showcasing different works from across the country.
“Keeping in mind the turnout of youngsters from colleges and schools, we’ve included a lot of ebooks for the tech savvy generation,” says Sanjay Vashistha , deputy manager at ITPO . “For the first time, we’ve also organised cultural events. There are book releases, seminars, author meets, street plays, quiz competitions and magic shows for kids attending the fair.”
The stall put up by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has a range of books on Indian politicians and historical figures under the series ‘Builders of Modern India’ (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)
Book fairs are an excellent place to hunt for works of Hindi and Urdu literature, not available easily in city bookstores, which mostly stock English titles. At the stalls of Sahitya Akademi or Urdu Academy Delhi, one can find works like Begum Anees Kidwai’s Azadi Kee Chhaon Mein or a collection of short stories by Urdu writer Krishan Chander; satirical-humorous stories in Hindi by Harishankar Parsai or Shrilal Shukla’s 1968 masterpiece, Raag Darbari.
Academic books and other educational books have seen good sales till now, according to the ITPO, which has promoted the event in public libraries and in institutions to raise interest. The ITPO also got in touch with major schools and invited teachers and students to attend the fair.
Read more: Lost in the crowd? Here’s what you should look for at Delhi Book Fair 2016
Children’s literature is another big draw this time around. On the sidelines of the book fair, there is a stationery fair, catering to everyone who loves the smell of paper or appreciates a stellar ink pen.
For office goers, there are files and folders, desk accessories, notepads and notebooks and a wide range of pens to choose from. The range, however, leans towards the sober and sedate, so lovers of quirky stationery are probably better off browsing online sites.
Children take a selfie with the comic characters near the stall of Raj Comics at the Delhi Book Fair. (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)
“We’ve found that there’s keen interest in books on health and sports, especially triggered after our girls did so spectacularly at the Olympics. School kids particularly have been exploring books on the topics,” says Vashistha.
But even in this ocean of books, there are visitors who couldn’t find what they were looking for. Delhi University English literature student Prachi Nagpal said she couldn’t find many post-colonial books written by Indian authors. Fellow student Nancy Verma was disappointed that she couldn’t find any biographies.
The Delhi Book Fair is a welcome annual fixture in the city’s calendar. But in this age of online shopping, it needs to update its reading list to include more diversity.