The importance of literature cannot be limited to holding mere fairs.
Digitization was to have signalled the end of print publication by and large, Kindle, ebooks.
And even audio versions of books and publications had been forecast to prevail over traditional forms.
For a while, the theory held good. Inexplicably, thereafter, as with the case of music, worldly burdens on the individual’s psyche brought about a change.
Newspapers raced to phase out the print version in favour of online, some closed print shops completely.
And then the demand for printed versions sky-rocketed.
It may have had something to do with a physical embodiment of “curling up with a book,” the touch and smell factors.
The unnoticed habits of licking a finger to turn a page and underline with a pencil a chunk that was relevant, questionable.
Or to be stored away to fuse in the thought process later are irreplaceable.
The same world that preached the “I” over “us” or “we” led us down the narrow alleys of loneliness and irrelevance.
And just as the remixed songs of yesteryear with lyrics that are no longer penned stir the jangled mind, a solid book or journal is therapeutic.
Most of the meaningful materials on the internet come at a cost compared with what libraries have to offer.
Transition of these repositories to digitization is lopsided depending where on this earth one happens to be.
Behind every hyped-up story of new digital marvels lies another tale — that of unavailability of the basics for most of the global population.
E-commerce innovators et al talk of great futures (read: Business) but it isn’t by chance that the humble paper diaries are back in vogue.
Book fairs across the world have adapted from mere stalls and author signing events with the best visuals from Cheltenham.
Or Hay Festival still being that of a reader sprawled on the grass in the summer sun devouring a book.
Bangladesh’s national book fair and the Ekushey book fair can’t be exceptions to the rule that both events must move on from mere dressed up stalls.
Hoping against hope that a reader and buyer will descend.
Digitization is a source for many to decide where to spend most of their allotted time.
The organizers miss out on this crucial aspect, unable to steer reader interest along paths that are sought after and also where new things are happening.
Perhaps the great void is the absence of reading sessions by authors that, with appropriate publicity.
Might create new demand. This year’s Ekushey book sales hit Tk52 crore, down from Tk80cr in 2020.
That shouldn’t be too surprising with post-pandemic economic realities.