Experts said book fairs are playing a significant role in increasing the number of readers and writers
Bangladesh is widely recognised for hosting the world's largest book fair, "Ekushey Boi Mela," every year, marking International Mother Language Day.
However, the world is unaware of the more than 40 other book fairs also being held in different regions across the country throughout the year.
Book fairs, and the practice of passionate book reading and presenting books as gifts, are gradually growing in Bangladesh, a country where literacy is still far below 80%, experts said.
National Professor Dr Anisuzzaman, Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury, Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam and Bangla Academy Director General Habibullah Sirazi said book fairs are playing a significant role in increasing the number of both readers and writers, and building a knowledge-based society in this era of social media.
They urged private and public universities to focus on research and publications, and associate with different book fairs to create quality readers in the country.
According to Bangladesh Gyan O Srijonshil Prokashak Samiti (BGSPS), over 40 book fairs are now being arranged across the country every year, apart from the Ekushey Book Fair, as the number of book buyers is increasing over time.
After the Ekushey Book Fair, BGSPS Vice-President Mohammad Gafur Hossain said the Cultural Affairs Ministry and Department of Public Libraries would arrange 12 book fairs in different divisions.
In addition, he said, BGSPS and other organisations also hold nearly 30 book fairs in different districts round the year, adding that: "The number of book fairs is increasing gradually with people's overwhelming response."
Gafur, also the owner of Rhythm Prakashan Sangstha, said the country's renowned publication houses are also joining book fairs in different countries, including the US, UK, Germany, China, Japan, India and Turkey.
"Around 20 Bangladeshi publication houses joined a book fair in New York last year. Our many publication houses also participate in many book fairs at different places in India," he added.
Prof Anisuzzaman said it is encouraging that the number of readers and writers is increasing in the country.
"Ekushey Book Fair is witnessing an increasing number of booklovers every year. The sale of books is also increasing regularly. Many other book fairs are also being held in the country, evoking a good response. It's a very good sign that the number of readers and writers are also on the rise," he observed.
Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury said book fairs are working as means of campaigning and publicity for books as well, which is very necessary to create readers.
"It's very positive that book fairs are getting popularity in the country. At the same time, we need more bookshops and libraries in all cities and district towns," he observed.
The noted educationist said research-based books, as well as books with a wide range of themes, are also necessary alongside novels and stories, to create quality readers.
"Universities can play a good role in this regard. Every university should have good publications regularly. But our universities, both private and public ones, don't focus on this issue," he said.
Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam said it is a good sign that people are buying books and visiting different book fairs amid the huge popularity of Facebook and television channels.
"Books help people think positively, extending their areas of thinking and depth of their thoughts, while superficial thoughts develop among people by watching light programs on television and reading rubbish content on social media platforms," he said.
The former DU professor said children should be encouraged to read stories and novels apart from textbooks, adding that: "Children should be given books as gifts on various occasions, including on their birthdays, to inspire them to read books."
The educationist also said that though there are many quality publication houses in the country and the printing business has extended significantly, the printing sector has still not gotten recognition as an industry.
Prof Manzoorul added: "The government should do more for the development of this sector, recognising it as an industry."
Habibullah Sirazi said it is good news for the printing industry that the book fairs are gaining popularity in the country.
He further said: "But the time has come for us to focus more on the quality of books than quantity. We must give our readers quality books with correct information and standard language. Producing quality books are necessary for building an educated nation."