Obituary

Publishing pioneer ran first S'pore book fair

Mr N. T. S. Chopra was the founding director of the Singapore International Book Fair and Festival Of Books.
Mr N. T. S. Chopra was the founding director of the Singapore International Book Fair and Festival Of Books.PHOTO: KHUSH CHOPRA

Local publishing pioneer N. T. S. Chopra, who helmed Singapore's first book fair for 27 years, died on Thursday aged 88 following complications from pneumonia.

With his curled moustache, the founding director of the Singapore International Book Fair and Festival Of Books was a familiar sight to the bibliophiles who thronged it for decades.

When the book fair began in 1968, it was a small affair in Victoria Memorial Hall with only 22 booths, most of which sold textbooks. Mr Chopra had to go around personally persuading publishers to take part.

By 1994, the year before he stepped down, it had expanded to 560 booths and attracted 1.6 million visitors. At its height, it was the biggest and most important book event in South-east Asia.

The fair declined after he retired, plagued by falling support and competition from the rival World Book Fair. It was later revamped as the Singapore Book Fair.

Mr Chopra, a teacher and lecturer who went on to run academic publishing house Chopmen, was also chairman of the National Book Development Council of Singapore and a founding member of the Singapore Book Publishers Association. In his time as book fair director, he championed support for home-grown writing. After stepping down, he continued to run his publishing firm and source for rare monograms from around the world.

He leaves behind his wife, three children and five grandchildren.

"He always told me he wanted Singapore's love for books to be much more than it was," says his son, volunteer activist Khush Chopra, 54.

"That was why he did the book fair. He did not make money from it. He ran, almost single-handedly, this incredibly complex and large book expo and it was a success because of the relationships he had with publishers around the world.

"He dedicated his life to promoting Singaporeans' passion for reading."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2018, with the headline 'Publishing pioneer ran first S'pore book fair'. Print Edition | Subscribe