[BBF09] Our titles must be good

.. since somebody tried to shop-lift couple of them yesterday. Unfortunately for him, since I am a nervous first time retail shop operator, I keep a keen eye. Moreover he chose to take a book out of the only two in the stack – pretty easy to get caught on that one. Anyway, I am hoping this was the only attempt and we have not lost any more to these things.

We have also been giving away free bookmarks at Pothi.com stall and they seem to amuse a lot of people. While children usually like the one in chocolate color with gift boxes on it, grownups love the one with following quote from Shashi Tharoor:

I was a typically Indian child: I spoke Malayalam to my mother, English to my father, Hindi to our driver, Bengali to our domestic help and Sanskrit to God.

Here is the link to the full article on India’s linguistic diversity from where this quote has been taken. One of the aims of Pothi.com is to make publishing easier and more transparent for regional language authors also. In the festival, we have only couple of Hindi and one Telugu book on display although we have a larger number available on our store. We will be looking to raise these numbers even more in times to come.

[Ideas] Would you like a book fair guide?

Bangalore Book Festival this year has close to 325 stalls arranged in 4-5 lanes with stalls on both the sides. With so many stalls, even if one had all the time in the world, it is quite difficult to go to all the stalls one likes and explore them. More over all the stalls are so packed of books and with people that it is easy to miss out on the unique books a stall has and you were looking for. The practice of highlighting the bestsellers which are a easier sell means that a lot of stalls end up looking similar on the face. What does someone interested in digging more deeply into this sea of books must do?

Enter a Book Fair Guide (bfg)! Consider a person who not only knows tons about books but also knows a lot about the stalls in the fair. He knows that a publisher from Kolkata is exhibiting towards the tail end of fair and he will have books you might like. Or that a second-hand book stall has some rare copies of a book hard to find in Bangalore. Or that if you are a history buff, you should not miss out on these 5 stalls. Walking with him through the fair, you would be able to see beyond the bestsellers and heavily discounted imported books which mark so many stalls. Moreover you will be able to save your energy to visit interesting stalls even at the end of fair. There is even the possibility of themed tours through the book fair – for cookery fans, for sports buffs etc.

Stall owners also have an incentive to engage these guys and give them a lot of information since it may be hard to interact with each and every person who walks into your stall due to sheer number of them. More niche publishers will benefit from making sure that their target group is able to find them.

I personally feel being able to walk through a book fest with somebody like this will be a lot of fun. What do you guys think? Leave a comment with your views or suggestions.

[BBF09] Inauguration @ V K Gokak Auditorium

Inauguration of Bangalore Book Festival 2009The book festival was officially inaugurated today evening with the lighting of the lamp. The ceremony was as exciting as a ceremony with half a dozen speeches can be. And so most of the visitors and stall owners completely ignored the repeated calls of the organizers to join them in the V K Gokak auditorium for the same. They insteaDancers at Bangalore Book Festivald spent time where the fun things were – in the main exhibition area with all the stalls up and running.

After all the speeches and the lighting of the lamp, there was a short procession with many drummers in traditional dresses which went through all the lanes with all the guests, organizing committee and journos in their tow. Does anyone know which dancers are these?

Although I didn’t end up in the opening ceremony, I was intrigued by the name given to the auditorium – V. K. GokV. K. Gokak Auditoriumak auditorium. I had heard the name before but didn’t know much about him. It turns out that this is the centenary birth year of V. K. Gokak, an outstanding Kannada poet, novelist and critic. He was the vice chancellor of the Bangalore University and recipient of many awards including Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award, Padam Shree & Jnanpith award. He was also the head of the committee which recommended making Kannada as the first language of the Karnataka state. The recommendations were later accepted by govt after the now famous “Gokak Agitation” under the leadership of late Dr. Rajkumar – a famous Kannada Actor. For those of you who cannot read Kannada like me, you can read one of his poem’s English translation.

Another trivia: Kannada holds the distinction of having won maximum number of Jnanpith awards – 7 in all. Jnanpith is the highest literary award in India. Gokak in 1990 was the 5th Kannada writer to win this.

[BBF09] On the eve of Book Fest!

So in the afternoon today, we loaded all our stuff into 2 auto rickshaws and headed to Palace Ground to claim what was rightfully ours – a 9’x9′ stall in Bangalore Book Festival. Everything went on well – it rained a little, just enough to make us feel good but not enough to spoil the books, autowaalahs didn’t bargain with us to death and organizers were nice enough to have all arrangements in place. We set up the basic stall quickly, made a list of things to get tomorrow and then took a stroll to get some inside scoop before the official thing starts. So what did we find?

So first thing we discovered was that “Books For Change” has a stall right next to us. They hadn’t set it up yet but we hope to catch up with Rajan tomorrow. Then we headed to the lane where Flipkart.com and Pratham Books have their stalls. On the Flipkart stall, we were surprised to find no books but a lot of computers and a wall full of book covers. Looks awesome! We came home to read about this on the flipkart blog. We also stumbled across the stall of Librarywala, an online book rental startup originally based out of Mumbai and now operating in Bangalore too.

It is great to see some online startups participating in the festival this year. Last year we did launch a few books during the festival, however there was not a single online book related service with a stall in the main exhibit area. Given that Bangalore is considered a hub of technology and startups, I found it disappointing. But this year, at least 3 such companies, may be more, are participating. This is encouraging. With Kindle finally making its way to India, perhaps e-books will also feature in one or more stalls of the fest. We will find that out starting from tomorrow.

What’s up tomorrow?

  • Book Festival kick starts at 10:30am
  • We will have Rajendra Nargundkar, author of “My Experiments with Half-Truths” at the stall from 2pm to 4pm, interacting with readers and signing the books.

Back to blog

God has given us one mouth and two ears. Many people take that as a hint from God to speak less & listen more but they promptly ignore it. The result is in front of you – just tune into any news channel and you will see.

With blogs, the situation becomes slightly more controversial since God not only granted us two hands but also eight fingers and two thumbs to the tops. And thus were launched millions of blogs, most abandoned shortly after beginning when everybody realized that the big guy had taken them for a ride. We were no wiser when jumping on to the bandwagon almost as soon as Pothi.com started and then leaving it shortly afterward.

In those months since starting, we discovered Facebook, we discovered Twitter and that kept the interaction going. We announced events, uploaded pictures, told you about interesting titles coming up on Pothi.com and converted you into followers and fans. While all that was great, we now feel that sometimes we have more substantial things to say, to discuss and to seek your advice on. These things are hard to wrap up in 140 characters and are hard to discuss while harvesting crops and throwing sheep. And so it is back to the blog.

Through this blog, we not only want to share our experience on building a publishing startup in India but also share information and insights about Indian publishing industry, book market and authors. We want to give back to the community and also keep learning loads from it. A lot of very interesting things are lined up at Pothi.com, the first one being our participation in Bangalore Book Festival starting 6th Nov. So that is where we will be starting.

Stay tuned!