Market for Baanglaa Books


Use of and practice with Baanglaa language in Bangladesh is not in a hopeless situation. Rather, it's expanding and flourishing within limits imposed by a reality of a market.

A few indicators from a part of a single area support the assertion made above.

A list of books published by Bangla Academy, one of the institutions the Baangaalee nation has created, is the evidence. Cynics and a part of Bangladesh scholars can find faults, a lot or a few, of the academy.

But, who can deny the number of titles, areas covered through the titles, and annual sale proceeds, an indicator of readers' interest in the academy books, and upward growth of these over the years? Hard data will bring an end to arguments by cynics.

There is no reason to disagree that there is a lot to be done. But, is the academy that much powerful to deny the socio-economic-political-administrative reality within which it operates? A market is there as part of the reality. Who can deny the reality? None can.

The series of dictionaries the academy has produced over the last few years is not only amazing, but also praise-worthy. The series has taken away at least a part of dependence. Its sale proceeds, not ignorable in this economy, say its utility.

The much-used Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary was first published in 1948 with 12 impressions. The Webster's International Dictionary of the English Language (in two volumes) was first published on January 15, 1891. Similar date in case of the (Chambers's) Twentieth Century Dictionary : 1901, the second edition of the Saral Baangaalaa Aveedhaan, a Baanglaa dictionary by Subal Chandra Mitra : 1909. the Samsad English-Bengali Dictionary : 1959, Students' Favourite Dictionary by A T Dev : 1958. These are very ordinary references. A Bangla Academy book on dictionary carries more startling related information and dates.

Only a few years ago, prior to the production of the Bangla Academy dictionaries, most of the school- and college-level students of this land relied on the last two dictionaries mentioned above and on Chalanteeka Aveedhaan, another Baanglaa dictionary. These were from Kolkata. Students of pre- and post- War for Liberation years know the fact. Even, student organizers of post-1971 days used this information as a reference to the worthlessness of the state, Pakistan, they were ruled by.

Scholars involved with compilation, editing, etc of a dictionary know the labor and time required for producing a dictionary. How can one ignore the series?

Considering the facts, can anyone deny the academy's achievement in this area? Is not it an indicator of use of, practice with and readership of Baanglaa? Why editions of Bangla Academy dictionaries are required if there lacked interest in its use among the general public? Yes, they, members of the general public, are not extra-ordinary elites thriving on labor of others and relying on profit-driven private institutions. They are the dust-strewn common persons, persons coming from towns and villages, persons with middle and lower-middle class background. The academy serves them. They keep the academy alive.

The Baanglaa edition of the Banglapedia by the Asiatic Society was a gigantic work in this reality. Limitations imposed by reality should be considered while scrutinizing a thing, an institution, etc.

A look at the number of books, more than 400 in a period of about four decades, produced by the Bishwo Shahitto Kendro, the non-government cultural center striving to expand the frontier of knowledge among the daughters and sons of the ordinary persons, the center's readership, more than a million in 2013, area-wise distribution of readership throughout the country, and type of participation provide a picture of use and practice with Bangla and its users, a new generation. It's not an achievement of any individual or a group of individuals, rather of a part of the wider society; and major portion of the part, it can be assumed on the basis of the center's data, is middle and lower-middle class.

Output of publishers in the private sector is not also negligible.

These provide a partial picture, but not insignificant, of the market of Baanglaa books, also an indicator of use and practice with Baanglaa.

Vol. 46, No. 40, Apr 13 - 19, 2014