Editors worry that publishers are losing interest because readers are not buying enough to sustain them
The literati’s niche decadence at the Ekushey Book Fair – little magazines – have been dealt a devastating blow this year, in spite of all the fanfare and anticipation preceding it.
Little magazines published in Bangladesh, popularly known as “Little Mag” and honoured with a separate corner at the book fair, are a platform to motivate publishing books under private initiatives. They remain a brilliant opportunity for new and young writers to showcase their talents and reach out to more readers. And for the readers, it is always a delight to discover hitherto unknown gems in these pages.
Over the past five years, the Little Mag corner has found itself awarded more and more space at the book fair, even as interest in them dwindles. In 2014, there were 45 stalls, 60 stalls in 2015, 85 stalls in 2016, 100 in 2017, and 136 stalls in 2018. This year, there are 131 stalls.
Alas, half the space was devoid of stalls. Brightly coloured banners hung alone; beneath them were no tables nor any salesperson shouting at people passing by. It is but the second week, but the absence of shops has grown into an absence of life, dissuading the casual visitor, worrying the more serious type.
Publishers are worried. Editors worry that publishers are losing interest because readers are not buying enough to sustain them. The success of mainstream publications remains a lucrative yet elusive prospect for them.
Shahid Iqbal, editor of Chinnho, said: “Our publications are no less important than mainstream books because we provide young people with a platform to write. Despite the falling readership, Little Mags are moving forward on their own merit. By publishing new authors, we expose free thinkers to the world.
Hemokanti, who works for Chinnho, said most of the Little Mags are based outside Dhaka, so they have a tougher time attending the book fair punctually.
At the stall of Doyel magazine, Minika had not sold a single book throughout the day. She said she had signed up to be part of the fair. She knew next to nothing about Doyel – who the publisher was, or how many books they have published.
Rahat, a frequent visitor to the Little Mag corner, offered his take on the scene: “Most of the stalls are empty. I come with my friends every year for something new. But we cannot seem to find much, because there don’t seem to be any new publications.”
Ganasanghati Andolan Convener, Jonayed Saki, said: “Authorities should move the Little Mag corner to the main premises of the Bangla Academy so that it can receive more exposure.”
Nonetheless, some books at the Little Mag corner have managed to turn heads to turn their pages in turn. Their titles include : “Brittaboddho Jiboner Protibimbo” by Shamsul Kibria, “Mukhos” by Rishi Dalai, “Theater: Bishoy Binnase” by Rahman Raju, “Mormolokay lekha Chilo” by Julfikar Motin, “Golap KaTa” by Faruk Alam, and “Grihohara” by ZaZabar Zia.