Sharjah International Book Fair Expands Its Publishers Conference Program

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2019 edition of Sharjah International Book Fair’s Publishers Conference is being expanded to three days and broadening the scope of its discussions.

At the Sharjah International Book Fair’s Publishers Conference in 2018. Image: Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Close to 600 Publishers, Rights Specialists Registered
Only days after Frankfurter Buchmesse closed, many world publishing figures who were in Germany are heading back to the airports to travel to the United Arab Emirates for an expanded professional program opening the 38th Sharjah International Book Fair (October 30 to November 9).

In an interview with Publishing Perspectives at Frankfurt, Ahmed Al Ameri and Faisal Al Naboudah, the chair and sales director, respectively, of the Sharjah Book Authority, said that as their team left Sharjah for Frankfurt, registration in the program had reached a record 566 publishers and rights specialists from 81 countries. By the time the program opens on Sunday, that number is expected to surpass 600 registrants.

The programming’s thematic purview has been widened, as well, as Al Naboudah points out, bringing some of the African markets’ issues into better focus, adding a close look at challenges in the freedom to publish, and taking in the sweep of digital developments, plus specific guidance on working with Arab world publishers.

This year’s Publishers Conference, as the program is called, is being expanded for the first time from two days to three, and will culminate with the grand opening of the fair on October 30 by Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the author-ruler of the UAE’s third emirate whose cultivation of a reading culture has contributed to Sharjah’s position as this year’s UNESCO World Book Capital.

And many, of course, know Sharjah for the work of the Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, the founding publisher of Sharjah’s Kalimat Group and of the Emirates Publishers Association who is now serving as vice-president of the International Publishers Association (IPA). Bodour is the leading driver behind the new regional conferences the IPA has staged in Lagos, Nairobi, and Amman, and she has launched the networking PublisHer program for women in international publishing, as well.

Bodour will give the closing speech at the Publishers Conference plenary on Tuesday (October 29).

Drawing more than 2.38 million visitors from 77 countries last year, the 10-day Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) is reportedly the third largest in the world. It’s a public-facing fair–which is why industry attendance is concentrated on the professional program. Organizers say the show in 2018 featured 1,874 exhibitors presenting as many as 1.6 million book titles.

The fair this year will have a particularly strong roster of international and Arabic authors in place for its intellectual programming, and we’ll have a separate story on the plans for that, noting for now that on the afternoon of October 30, the plans are to have both Turkey’s Orhan Pamuk—winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature—and Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan on stage.

Today, our focus is on plans for the Publishers Conference, set again this year at the capacious Sharjah Chamber of Commerce, and the program opens with a crisp emphasis on the internationalism that has been a hallmark of the Al Qasimi royal family’s literature-based leadership in the Arab world.

The general shape of each day of the conference is a morning of targeted panels on various issues in the international book trade, followed by an afternoon of rights trading and meetings, with networking events in the evenings.

SIBF Publishers Conference 2019 Highlights

From left, Sharjah Book Authority’s Mansour Al Hassani, Faisal Al Naboudah, and Ahmed Al Ameri talk about the 2019 Sharjah International Book Fair Publishers Conference programming on Sharjah’s Frankfurter Buchmesse stand. Image: Porter Anderson

SIBF Publishers Conference, Day One

On Sunday (October 27), the Publishers Conference will be opened by Al Ameri, who will then hand off to a panel chaired by Emad Eldeen Elakehal, the founder of the UK’s Ibiidi Publishing, on “Global Publishing: What’s Next for This Growing Industry?” Panelists in the discussion include:

  • Dominique Raccah

    Dominque Raccah, founder and CEO, Sourcebooks (USA)

  • Elliot Agyare, president, Ghana Book Publishers Association, and CEO, Smartline Publishing (Ghana)
  • Jade Robertson, international publishing director, Austin Macauley Publishers (UK)
  • Peter Dowling, immediate past president, Publishers Association of New Zealand, and publisher, Oratia Books (New Zealand)

“Taking Arabic Titles Global: How To Do Business With Arab Publishers” is among the most practical and important sessions of each year’s professional program at Sharjah, as many of us who attend annually can tell you. The focus here is on buying and selling Arabic titles and tips on how to apply for the SIBF Translation Grant, a US$300,000 fund exclusively available to Publishers Conference participants.

Julie Attrill

This year’s panel on the topic is chaired by Julie Attrill, manager of international rights with Wiley (UK), and includes:

  • Jayne Parsons, publishing director, Bloomsbury (UK)
  • Mohammed Enad, Masaa Publishing and Distribution (Canada)
  • Ramzi Ben Rhouma, Meskeliani Editions (Tunisia)
  • And Book Authority’s Al Nabouda will join this group to discuss the SIBF Translation Grant

SIBF Publishers Conference, Day Two

Monday (October 28), the second of the conference’s three days, opens with an emphasis on storytelling and free expression.

Chiki Sarkar

“Arab Authors in Conversation” will be chaired by Badia Atiah Hasan and will feature:

  • Abdulwahab Alsayed Ali
  • Ahmed Khaked Mohamed Hamed
  • Amr Ahmed Mohamed Abdelhamid

In “Publishers’ Digital Strategy: New Ways of Storytelling,” Publishing Perspectives will chair a discussion of the key developments in audiobooks, ebooks, subscriptions, and the pervasive mobile factor that digital introduces to publishing’s sales and distribution options. Of particular interest is the question of keeping consumers engaged in a world deluged with entertainment options. Participating in our talk:

  • Ama Dadson

    Ama Dadson, Founder and CEO, AkooBooks Audio (Ghana)–see more from Publishing Perspectives

  • Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO, HarperCollins (India) — see more from Publishing Perspectives
  • Chiki Sarkar, Publisher and Founder, Juggernaut Books (India) –see more from Publishing Perspectives.
  • Mohamed Shawkey Mohamed Ghanem – Bookjuice Publishing (Egypt)

And a centerpiece event of the conference arrives with a discussion on “Freedom to Publish: Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns,” chaired by London Book Fair director Jacks Thomas and including one of the first appearances by Daniel Gorman in his new role at the helm of English PEN. Panelists:

  • Daniel Gorman

    Daniel Gorman, director, English PEN (UK)

  • Ibrahim Ali Khadim, head of media content development, National Media Council (UAE)
  • Isobel Abulhoul, CEO & trustee, Emirates Literature Foundation (UAE)
  • Kristenn Einarsson, chair, IPA Freedom to Publish committee and IPA 2020 World Congress director (Norway)–see more from Publishing Perspectives
  • Mahmoud Lotfy, brother of IPA 2019 Prix Voltaire recipient Khaled Lotfy (Egypt)

In a networking dinner set on the second night at Sharjah Publishing City–the free trade zone created by the emirate for publishing-related businesses–Ingram Content Group’s David Taylor will be the featured speaker. As we’ve reported, Ingram’s Lightning Source is becoming the anchor tenant at Sharjah Publishing City, a major get for the facility in terms of clients and the region’s supply chain.

SIBF Publishers Conference, Day Three

Tuesday (October 29) opens with three addresses:

Hugo Setzer

IPA president Hugo Setzer (more from us is here) will speak first, followed by Dubai Cares’ CEO Tariq Al Gurg, who then will  hand off to Samuel Kolawole, chair of the African Publishers Network.

“Catalyzing Publishing Innovation: Old Problems, New Solutions” follows, a discussion themed on the IPA’s and Dubai Cares’ creation in May of the African Publishing Innovation Challenge Fund to promote scalable approaches to longstanding publishing industry challenges and catalyze stakeholder co-investment. Chairing the discussion is Kenya Publishers Association president Lawrence Njagi—see more from Publishing Perspectives. His panelists are:

  • Bibi Bakare-Yusuf

    Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, publisher and founder, Cassava Republic Press (Nigeria)—see more from Publishing Perspectives

  • Elinor Sisulu, executive director, Puku Children’s Literature Foundation (South Africa)—see more from Publishing Perspectives
  • Okechukwu Ofili, co-founding CEO, OkadaBooks (Nigeria)
  • Stephanie Braquanais, author, journalist (Kenya)

In “Connecting African Publishing Ecosystems,” the focus is on intra-African cooperation among the continent’s many markets, a need that has surfaced in the IPA’s conferences in the region. Nigerian Publishers Association president Gbadega Adedapo—see more from Publishing Perspectives. His panelists are:

  • Mohammed Al Fateh, president, Sudan Publishers Union (Sudan)
  • Christianie Tchotcho Ekue, board member, Togo Publishers Association (Togo)
  • Gabriel Kitua, president, Publishers Association of Tanzania (Tanzania)
  • Maureen Masamba

    Maureen Masamba, president, Book Publishers Association of Malawi (Malawi)

  • Samuel Majwega Musoke, president, Uganda Publishers Association (Uganda)

And “Transforming African Libraries” is the theme of the final panel, chaired by Brian Wafawarowa, director of  Leaf Publishing and Research Services, and chair of the IPA’s Inclusive Publishing and Literacy committee (South Africa)—see more from Publishing Perspectives. His panelists are:

  • Angela Wachuka, co-founder and partner, Book Bunk (Kenya)
  • Eman Bushulaibi, director, Sharjah libraries (UAE)
  • Mohammed Shilli, president, Somali Publishers Association(Somalia)
  • Wanjiru Koinange, co-founder and partner, Book Bunk (Kenya)

As mentioned, Bodour Al Qasimi will close the third and final day’s conference sessions with an address, prior to the afternoon’s trading and networking sessions.

Sharjah’s Bodour Al Qasimi speaks at Frankfurter Buchmesse in a program from the International Publishers Association and APNET. Bodour gives the closing address on October 29 at Sharjah’s Publishers Conference. Image: Porter Anderson

More from Publishing Perspectives more on developments in Sharjah is here, and more on the International Publishers Association is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.