BY Vani IN For Writers

Does India really need so many literature festivals? [Scroll]

When bookstores are closing down and the reading culture dwindling, what purpose do these events serve?

Why are there so many literature festivals in India? At last count – and it’s hard to keep up – there were at least 70 such events around the country, not including literary meets at colleges and universities. The number is probably higher, since it’s difficult to keep up.

Sometimes the venues seem a little, well, unlikely. A recent “litfest” in my own city, Panchkula, came close on the heels of two in Chandigarh, and one each in Sangrur, Kasauli and Kumaon. All of these are towns where serious bookshops are either closing down – as elsewhere in the country – or never existed in the first place.

The key question: are all these festivals reversing the decline in readership numbers? Are they, perhaps, increasing sales of books?

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“I think it’s important to see these two factors in isolation,” insisted Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO, HarperCollins Publishers India. “Bookstores closing down [and only a few are] is purely a function of economics. The chain stores were over invested in real estate, with very high costs, and didn’t quite see the trend changing towards other sources and changes in customer patterns.”

He added: “The latter, however, is a result of very poor customer service. At the present moment, online booksellers are bridging a major gap [there weren’t enough bookstores in India to begin with] and are able to ship books to various cities that did not have bookstores. As customers choose to buy books from other sources, literature festivals are playing a very major role in helping grow much-needed word of mouth for authors and their books.”

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