Books should be treated as an instrument of social service, not as a trading commodity or a product, the Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) President Ramesh K. Mittal said on the sidelines of the 24th Delhi Bookfair.

“Books are not a product. This is a social service, and the idea behind free entry is to let everyone come and read,” Mittal told IANS in response to a query on the reason for doing away with the entry fee this year. The idea behind free entry is to “let everyone come and read,” he said.

“Books should not be treated as a trading commodity. We should ensure people are able to read more and more literature. This is one way of doing that.”

He said the publishing sector is facing a lot of challenges. “This is a challenging time for the publishing industry, especially because of a downturn in sales. The younger generation is more inclined towards electronics.”

Publishing better books at competitive prices could make young people feel books are a source of entertainment, he added.

The book fair, which opened here on Saturday, is hosting 120 publishers and over 300 stalls.

Mittal said the reason for limited space this year is the ongoing construction work at Pragati Maidan. He hopes for a bigger fair in subsequent editions.

The fair authorities have tried to ensure that a variety of books are featured, he added.

“It’s not that we have only Hindi literature here, we also have Punjabi, Urdu and the like. Hindi is better recognised in the north, so Hindi sellers are better represented here.”

The Delhi book fair is open for public participation till September 2.