The 23rd Delhi Book Fair, a low-key affair this year, finally saw a huge number of book lovers turning up for the event on its concluding day on Sunday.
The nine-day event, after opening on a dull note and drawing sparse crowds throughout, managed to pull off a decent show from Friday and over the weekend. The clear sky and the relaxed Sunday gave the book lovers an extra incentive to visit the book fair in its final hours.
With the theme of "Padhe Bharat, Badhe Bharat" (May India read, May India progress), the fair was organised by the Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) in association with the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO).
Nity Sharma, a scientist working with DRDO who came along with her twin daughters Tyulip and Twishaa, said: "I love book fairs because even in the era of Kindle, events like this keep alive the charm that books have. It is the smell of the books that draws me to the book fairs. My daughters have Kindle, but they too prefer books."
As the event saw low visitor turnout in its initial days, the publishers sought to lure them by offering heavy discount on books this weekend. That turned into a major attraction for the youth.
"I got to know about it quite late but had to make it this time. I heard from my friends that there's a heavy discount on books. I got three books for just Rs 100," said Archana Rao, a student of Jamia Milia Islamia.
The rising numbers crowding the stalls over the past three days also brought some welcome relief and respite to the hard-pressed publishers.
Satyendra Singh Bisht of Pitambar Publication said: "We had lost hope of any profit this time. Even last Sunday it wasn't that crowded... Maybe it's the last day, but I am happy to see people showing interest in books. It gives us some hope."
Another attraction at this year's fair was the stationery hall which drew more crowds than the books hall. From customised diaries and notepads to interior decoration items, the wide variety attracted throngs of excited visitors and buyers.
However, all publishers were generally of the opinion that this year's book fair did not turn out to be as good as in the past.
According to them, several factors like violence by Dera Sacha Sauda followers after the court verdict convicting him of rape, sudden monsoon showers, absence of big publishing houses and lack of publicity of the once-premier event affected the sale of books at the 23rd edition of the book fair.
According to the organisers, paucity of funds majorly dented the fair this year. They also noted that around 40 publishers were not present this time, and this not only affected the funds but also disappointed many visitors.
Absence of big publishing houses like Penguin and HarperCollins and some majors from Hindi publishing industry was notable and left the wholesalers, retailers and readers dissatisfied.
"There are many books, but I did not find them that appealing. I was looking forward to some new books, but found the same collection as that of last year. It's a little disappointing for us," said Sharmila Rana from Punjabi Bagh.
The widespread feeling of disappointment notwithstanding, the visitors hoped the book fair would offer better and richer fare next year.