Making reading cool again

Pubat is set to host 49th National Book Fair in both the digital and physical format

Chonrungsri Chalermchaikit, president of Pubat.

Things are a little different this year. However, the more things change, the more important it is to keep traditions alive like the magic of reading.

After going online last year in response to the Covid-19 situation, the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (Pubat) is gearing up for the comeback of the 49th National Book Fair and 19th Bangkok International Book Fair in both the digital and physical format. But due to the third round of the Covid-19 surge, the National Book Fair will be held virtually from April 17-25 while the in-person event is postponed to next month.

More than 223 publishing houses have been confirmed to take part in the event this year including Book Wonderland, General Books, Education, Children's Books, Old Books, Foreign Books, and Fiction.

"Although the number of publishers taking part has dwindled compared to previous years, many have still come forward and are ready to put up their stalls, which is an encouraging sign," Chonrungsri Chalermchaikit, president of Pubat, told Life during a recent round-table interview with the press.

"Everyone had a tough year in 2020. Most of the famous book fairs across the world and in Thailand did not take place physically. We also had concerns while organising the book fair here but with the support of our readers at last year's virtual event and from the publishers, the turnout disproved these concerns."

According to the research by Pubat, the total market value of the Thai publishing industry in 2020 was approximately 12 billion baht. In 2021, as the Covid-19 situation begins to improve due to vaccine rollouts, the market value will rise to 15 billion baht. The most popular category among readers is still fiction and comics, followed by books on self-development and political history. The most common purchase channels according to survey data of book fair attendees are bookstores at 81%, online channels at 61%, and e-books at 20%.

As always, this year's National Book Fair comes with a special theme titled "Reading Is Cool". The new theme aims to encourage people to change their views about reading and discover what kind of books suit their lifestyles. No matter what genre or style you choose, you can be cool in your own way.

(Photo by Patipat Janthong)

"Today, reading has given way to social media, text messages and other distractions, so one may say it is hard to return to books as it is a dead format. While we do have access to all kinds of mediums to choose how we read such as smartphones, e-readers, and tablets, the most important thing is to be able to read and access knowledge since that is the coolest thing," said Chonrungsri. "There are trends emerging all the time, like new restaurants, surf skating, or the Clubhouse app. So, our goal is to make reading become trendy again."

In order to create new impressions about reading and make reading appear cool, the book fair is organising an exhibition entitled "I Read, Therefore I Am", and is inviting 49 famous people and idols from various fields such as businessmen, writers, politicians, academics, doctors, scientists, artists and actors to come and share their feelings about reading, their favourite books, and provide examples of sentences in books that has inspired their life either in the sense of happiness, relationships, or their business and career. The exhibition is located at a Giant Book Booth and is open to everyone to check-in and listen to motivating stories.

"One of our special guests is a well-known rapper who we will only reveal on the day of the event. He'll be there to share the true story of how reading books helped him compose songs and got him where he is today," she said.

Meanwhile, other interesting activities at the event include "The Magic Of Fairy Tales On Brain Development", an exhibition showcasing a selection of children's books from domestic publishers, a display of books in five categories over five zones; book launches such as The Princess Dog Diary 2 written by Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana Rajakanya and LOTS & FOUND written by Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan; and book talks: Readers will also be inspired by series of book talks showcasing motivating books in various genres.

(Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

Besides the on-ground event, book lovers can still browse and shop for their favourite books online via with more than 200 bookstores, publishers and promotions from three major marketplaces: Lazada, Shopee, JD Central, which are offering discounts worth 5 million baht in total. Plus this year, the association has added a gimmick to encourage readers to buy with an e-coupon valued at 500 baht that will be sold in advance at a special price of 400 baht along with promotions of up to 60% discounts from publishers. The fair has also joined hands with Kerry Express to offer a special deal for delivery services.

Despite the latest outbreak, Pubat has announced that it will go ahead with the event as planned. However, for the on-ground event to work, the book fair has released its measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which is more concise than last year as it features the use of Thai Chana QR Code check-in and check-out points, alcohol-based hand sanitisers stations, temperature screening, and visitor density monitoring.

The 49th National Book Fair & Bangkok International Book Fair 2021 will be held virtually between April 17-25 at The physical event will be held from May 15-23 at Bitac Bangna.

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