Bangladeshi book fair highlights love of printed books

With less than a week left until the end of Bangladesh's largest month-long annual book fair, thousands of all ages are still flocking daily to see and buy new books.

The overwhelming popularity of the fair more than suggest that people here still have a deep love for books, with paper, ink and covers, rather than their modern-day digital counterparts.

Many of those attending the fair have said they feel a profound sense of happiness and nostalgia as they inhale the fragrance of a newly-printed book. Some described it as the "best smell in the world."

The Amar Ekushey Boi Mela, which literally means "Immortal Twenty First Book Fair," has been held since Feb. 1 in Dhaka's Bangla Academy premises and its adjacent Suhrawardy Udyan (garden), in commemoration

of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for protecting the dignity of the mother tongue on Feb. 21, 1952.

Feb. 21 is currently observed throughout the world as

"International Mother Language Day."

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the month-long book fair and this year a total of 651 stalls were allocated to 402 organizations, with the holiday weekend last Friday seeing a huge spike in book lovers rushing to the event.

On Friday evening, the Academy was jam-packed with tens of thousands of aficionados keenly leafing through a plethora of literary gems.

The impressive foot flow was evidenced by the hundreds of visitors who were waiting in long queues to enter Bangladesh's largest annual book fair, eager to buy books and other published materials.

The throngs were a testament to the ongoing romantic appeal of traditional books and other printed materials.

Rezauddin Stalin, a poet and and a television personality, strongly believes that digital books could never replace the appeal of printed books.

"I think there will always be an appeal for printed books alongside e-books, even though everything seems to be becoming digitized these days. Footpaths have not been dispersed with the advent of waterways and similarly waterways still exist despite highways and airports," the poet proofread.

"Books are something primitive and natural, like a footpath. Books can be touched and read whilst lying on bed. So I think books are an important medium to acquire knowledge. Books will continue to lead the way in establishing a true knowledge-based society."

Bangladeshi ex-president Dr. AQM Badruddoja Chowdhury was among other notable personalities to flock to the month-long book fair with friends and families in search of new books written by their favorite authors.

Chowdhury also expressed his feelings about the importance of printed books.

"We're living in a digital era. Everybody is keen to learn though digital mediums. Almost everything has been digitized. Despite that, thousands of people from both rural and urban areas are visiting the fair. Even small kids are coming, elderly people, mothers and sisters are also coming to the fair."

The fair has welcomed a huge number of children who made the most of the day at the fair, on the first holiday that was dedicated to them.

"I have come from Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka and I have bought seven books," said youngster Mehedi Hasan Ayan.

Another youth, Suyartu Mim, said, "Actually it makes us very proud that our country can hold such a fantastic book fair like this. And I am very proud to be here."

Bangla Academy Deputy Director Md Sahadat Hossain (Nipu) said, "Every year, about 5,000 books are published during the Bangla Academy book fair. Readers know this very well. This year's fair, however, will end soon, but about 3,000-4,000 books have already been published this year and we hope by the end of the fair more than 5,000 books will be published this year," he said.

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