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Sharjah World Book Capital Holds a Closing Ceremony Online

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Sharjah’s 2019 World Book Capital has streamed a closing ceremony today from the UAE, after the year-long program announces grants from its new Access Sharjah incubator for book-related startups.

From the Sharjah World Book Capital closing ceremony stream. Image: Sharjah WBC

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Bodour Al Qasimi; ‘Read Until No Strangers Remain’
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, Sharjah’s year as UNESCO’s World Book Capital has been unable because of the pandemic to stage physical concluding ceremonies intended to coincide with the opening of the emirate’s new House of Wisdom knowledge center and digital library complex.

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center at this writing lists 7,755 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United Arab Emirates, with 46 deaths to date. (That’s the 7:38 a.m. ET update, 1138 GMT.)

Today (April 22)—on the eve of Ramadan and World Book and Copyright Day—Sharjah World Book Capital went to the Internet to stream a concluding presentation for its year with UNESCO’s designation (a first for a Gulf city).

“I sincerely hope that you’re coping well with the global challenge” of the pathogen’s pandemic, Sharjah’s Bodour Al Qasimi said in her comments in the streamed presentation. “We are united by our love for books and reading and I hope that the sun will shine on you very soon.”

Here’s the complete closing video, with Bodour’s comments, the piece running 9 minutes, 41 seconds.

Bodour pointed out that many users of social media during the worldwide battle with the coronavirus have made reading recommendations to each other, finding intellectual support in a time of danger and difficulty. And in social media, the program has circulated a distillation of many of the year’s programmed activities and participants: “Our Stories Have Just Begun.”

 

A dedicated site for Sharjah’s World Book Capital program—themed “Open Books, Open Minds”—is here.

Kuala Lumpur is the 2020 World Book Capital designated by UNESCO. Its opening ceremonies have similarly been disrupted by the worldwide contagion.

A young reader in one of the Sharjah World Book Capital beach libraries created as part of the UNESCO program. Image: Sharjah WBC

Access Sharjah: An Incubator for Book-Related Startups

In the run-up to today’s closing ceremony, Sharjah’s World Book Capital committee, Bodour earlier this month presented the first Access Sharjah prize of US$100,000 to  Little Thinking Minds, an educational initiative for early-age readers.

Bodour—the International Publishers Association vice-president who has led the Sharjah World Book Capital program as the founding publisher of the Kalimat Group—led the creation of Access Sharjah as part of the World Book Capital program. Access Sharjah is an international platform dedicated to supporting the development of book-related startups.

In addition to the lead grant for Little Thinking Minds, Bodour also presented BoBu, Narrativa, and Almentor.net with second-position grants of US$20,000 each.

Access Sharjah falls under the aegis of the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, which is called Sheraa, and this new small-business incubator is expressly aimed at those working in the digital and publishing content sector.

Bodour Al Qasimi in the World Book Capital closing live stream

In her comments on the presentation of the awards, Bodour said, “Investments in entrepreneurs in the publishing sector is an investment in the future of the international book market. The aspirations of these businesses, combined with their sustainable products and services, drive the growth and success of the publishing industry.

“It also stimulates cultural entities to embrace projects and initiatives which advance knowledge and culture.

“As Sharjah serves a year-long stint as World Book Capital 2019, its committee had set a number of goals to achieve in 2019-20.

“Most notably, enabling access to all segments of society to books and knowledge, and fueling the publishing industry’s growth. To attain those, the emirate organized a host of activities, including large-scale cultural events which received the firm support of both public and private institutions.

“Sharjah entities have added to our efforts by devising excellent initiatives, including Sheraa’s Access Sharjah program which is a fitting testament to these efforts, and a clear example of how all our cultural projects and companies are guided by a collective vision – to facilitate people’s access to knowledge and pave the way for new investments in publishing.”

Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, issued a prepared statement, saying, “Access Sharjah was created to solve one of the most critical challenges that startups face, which is gaining access to markets. The program serves as a launchpad into the Sharjah and wider UAE market, supporting the growth of innovative start-ups as well as furthering the emirate’s vision to be a global destination for high-impact businesses.

“For the first edition, we focused on startups in the book and digital content space, in honor of Sharjah being named UNESCO World Book Capital 2019.

“We received over 250 applications from around the world, and are proud to announce, Little Thinking Minds, BoBu, Narrativa, and Almentor.net as winners. We look forward to having these high-caliber startups call Sharjah their home and shall continue to work with them as they grow their ventures.”

You can see a full roster of startups with which Access Sharjah is working here.

A training session with personnel from startups working with the new Access Sharjah incubator. Image: Sheraa


More from Publishing Perspectives on Sharjah is here, more on the UNESCO World Book Capital program is here. More from us on the coronavirus pandemic is here.

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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 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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