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Is Bangla Academy failing to serve its purpose?

  • Published at 10:36 pm February 23rd, 2020
Bangla Academy
Over 70% of the publications, out of a total of 5470 editions that were published by the Bangla Academy, are now out of market. As of February, 2020, around 3,948 titles were not available Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Over 70% of the publications, out of a total of 5470 editions that were published by the Bangla Academy, are now out of market

Bangla Academy, the highest institution in Bangladesh promoting the Bangla language in all spheres, started in 1955, to enrich Bangla literature by encouraging research and publications in the language.

But readers today have trouble finding old works published by the academy as many of them - books and magazines - have become unavailable due to lack of republishing after the first edition.

Over 70% of the publications, out of a total of 5470 editions that were published by the Bangla Academy, are now out of market.

"The betterment and excellence of the nation through carrying out research studies and development of our local or indigenous culture, heritage, history, tradition, Spirit of the Liberation War, preservation of the contemporary art and culture and others," is the academy's objective as stated on their website.

However, Prof Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said: "The academy is not focusing on its actual purpose.”

"Almost all books are re-printable as books never die. All those books should be revised and re-edited," commented Choudhury, a prominent literary critic.

The academy has a duty to conduct research, translate, and collect worthy literature but the authorities have failed to do so, he said.

"I have some books which are now out of stock. But they are re-printable and are in demand among readers," he added.

Choudhury also pointed out that it is not the Bangla Academy's duty to arrange the Amar Ekushey Book Fair where it is putting most of its attention nowadays.

“A great deal of time is wasted on this. Responsibilities can be placed on the publishers to arrange the fair," the renowned educationist added.

"Bangla Academy has strayed away from their main duty, which is to promote Bangla language through research. So how will Bangla literature be enriched?," he questioned.

The academy also shortened the Bangla vowel forms which, according to Choudhury, was a big mistake and harmful to the language.

In contrast, National Professor Dr Anisuzzaman believes the Bangla Academy is on the right path.

"Bangla Academy is serving its founding purposes properly and is enriching Bangla literature by encouraging research and publication," said Anisuzzaman, also the Bangla Academy president.

But language movement veteran Rezaul Karim shared Prof Choudhury's view.

"There are many essential research based books which are now unavailable at Bangla Academy. They should put those into print based on demand. Otherwise people will not get to read those rare pieces in the future," said Rezaul.

Rezaul, nevertheless, thinks that Bangla Academy is now doing a better job compared to the past.

Dr Jalal Ahmed, Director of Sales, Marketing and Reprinting Division of Bangla Academy, told Dhaka Tribune that all the books published by Bangla Academy are research based.

“We consider two things for reprinting a book. When an author officially contacts us saying their book is out of print, reporting its demand, we verify the claim and take a decision based on that,” Jalal said.

"We also decide to reprint a book when we determine its market demand independently," he added.

Bangla Academy will also reprint books of prominent deceased authors, and books related to Bangabandhu ahead of his birth centenary.

Over 70 percent books now out of print

Within two years of its establishment, Bangla Academy began publishing books and magazines in Bangla. By 1971, the academy had published 317 books and journals.

5,470 editions of different books and magazines, including multiple and only editions, have been published by the Bangla Academy in the 65 years since its inception.

But most titles are not available for purchase now as the authorities of the academy have not reprinted much of the sold out first editions.

As of February, 2020, around 3,948 titles were not available, according to sources at the Sales, Marketing and Reprinting Division of Bangla Academy.

Bangla Academy published 41 new books for Amar Ekushey Boi Mela 2020, of which 26 in some shape or form relate to Bangabandhu. They reprinted 63 books as well.