New designs, better prices – Tagore books never say die

By Aparajita Gupta, IANS,

Kolkata : Not for nothing is he the evergreen bard of Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore’s literary gems are a huge draw among youngsters and older generations even now, with cheaply priced editions and attractive covers spurring sales, say publishers.

Support TwoCircles

As the nation gears up to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the versatile Nobel laureate May 9, publishers say Tagore’s poems, short stories and songs are still a rage.

“Among his books – ‘Sanchayita’ (a collection of poems), ‘Gitabitan’ (a compilation of songs), ‘Gitanjali’ (a book of poems), and ‘Golpo Guchho’ (collection of short stories) – are the most popular ones,” Shankar Mondal, owner of Dip Publication, told IANS.

“To mark his 150th birth anniversary, we are coming out with ‘Selected English Writings of Tagore’,” Mondal said.

Tagore, who was born in 1861 and died in 1941, is among the most revered writers in the world who wrote poems, plays, songs, novels and short stories. He won the Nobel in 1913.

“We have published 10 volumes of ‘Rabindra Rachana Abhidhan’, which is a kind of dictionary of all his writings.” The publishing house, which is more than 60 years old, plans to come out with 15 such volumes.

Asked about the readership, he said: “Of course! Tagore and Swami Vivekananda – these are two writers who are still in great demand among youngsters.”

For 50 years after Tagore’s death, Visva Bharati University – founded by the poet – held the copyright to all his works. In 1991, the copyright was extended for 10 years up to 2000. But once it finally expired, there was no stopping publishers.

Many used the opportunity to re-print the writings from Jan 1, 2001. Innovatively designed book covers, courtesy new-age printing technology, have also boosted sales.

Echoed Dipankar Acharya of Bikash Grantha Bhavan: “We have a very good demand for Tagore books. We have designed them very well as that attracts readers.”

The publisher, around 20 years in the business, has employed the art director of a popular Bengali daily for designing. He also stressed that the price factor has acted as a catalyst for good sales.

“We have a good demand in Agartala (Tagore once stayed in Tripura as a guest of the king), Guwahati, Ranchi, Jamshedpur (Jharkhand) besides Delhi, where a lot of Bengali people reside.”

Mondol asserted that publishers who reprint Tagore’s books will always get good buyers as there is a substantial price difference between their products and those brought out by Visva Bharati.

“When we started, we priced our books (by Tagore) at below Rs.100.”

When private publishers started reprinting Tagore’s works, the response was huge, as people for whom these books had been unaffordable until then, could buy those.

“The market may be slowly reaching a saturation point as these books are treated as assets and not bought everyday. But we still have a regular market. When we first printed the ‘Sanchayita’, it sold like hot cakes – 1,000 copies in six months.”

He said there were big buyers of Tagore works at the district level.

Former Rabindra Bharati University vice-chancellor Pabitra Sarkar, however, rued that some of the reprinted books were of poor quality.

“After the copyright was lifted, two types of prints were available in the market – superior quality and of very poor quality,” Sarkar told IANS.

But at the same time he emphasised: “It is important that people get to read Tagore… nothing is more important than that.”