Dhaka Book Fair organisers in High Court over Bkash monopoly

The world’s longest duration book fair, the month-long Amar Ekushey Boi Mela, is mired in legal controversy this week, following a High Court ruling.

As reported here earlier this month –

Mobile payments net booklovers extra discount at Amar Ekushey Boi Mela, paving the way for future ebook stores

the Bangla Academy, the body behind the book fair, had arranged with mobile payments provider Bkash to offer discounts to book buyers using the service.

What wasn’t clear at the time was that this was an exclusive deal with Bkash and that other payment options, cash aside, were barred.

This not only impacted negatively on sales, but landed the Bangla Academy in the Dhaka High Court on Monday, with an interim ruling that the Bangla Academy is to allow all forms of payments. The Academy has further been given two weeks to explain why the exclusivity deal should not be ruled illegal under the 2012 Competition Act and against the public interest.

That ruling will take the matter through to the event’s conclusion on February 28, so for now all payments are again an option at the Amar Ekushey Boi Mela. The consequent decision, once the Academy have argued their case and the High Court make a definitive ruling, will determine the fate of payment options at future events.

In semi-related news, Bangladesh will have 4G internet available from February 21, which will boost smartphone use and bring more people to internet for services, including book buying.

Sadly Bangladeshis won’t have many ebook options as none of the Big 5 western ebook retailers offer localized options for Bangladesh.

At which point some may be thinking, “Why would they even bother? There can’t be that many people online in Bangladesh.”

In which case you might want to be sitting down for the next bit.

Bangladesh is actually the tenth largest country in the world by internet users.

Not only has Bangladesh more people online than any country in Europe except Russia, but with 73 million internet users it has more people online than the entire population of  either the UK, France, Italy or Spain.

Almost none of them will be reading our ebooks.

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