Tbilisi International Book Festival Returns to Physical Production

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With a full schedule of in-person events and activities, the 2021 Tbilisi International Book Festival in Georgia takes place this week, and attendee registration is now open.

At the Tbilisi International Book Festival, pre-pandemic. Image: GPBA

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

To ‘Come Out of a Crisis Stronger’
Another sign of the transitional stage the world industry has entered in the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association’s 23rd Tbilisi International Book Festival opens Thursday to run through Sunday (June 24 to 27).

Set at Tsereteli Avenue’s Expo Georgia—a 1961 example of Paninashvili’s modernist architecture of the era—the program has announced that it will field more than 100 translators, publishers, and artists, in a busy sequence of up to 100 events and activities.

This is a public-facing book fair, first held in 1997 and in non-pandemic times normally drawing 100,000 or more attendees.

Following last year’s online evocation of the event, there’s a happy enthusiasm in the comments made to us by Gvantsa Jobova, deputy chair of the association.

“Tbilisi International Book Festival was born along with Georgia gaining its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” she says, “and since then, it has maintained the status of being one of the main literary events of the year in our country.

“The festival is one of the main driving forces for the Georgian publishing sector and it was crucial for us to become the main catalysts of bringing in renewed strength and energy to the Georgian book industry after a difficult year of fighting with the global pandemic.”

‘More Motivated and More Experienced’

At the Tbilisi International Book Festival, pre-pandemic. Image: GPBA

One aspect of the show’s return to a relatively normal set of operating procedures is that attendees are being asked to register in advance at the site, and the page to do that is here. Visitors will be registering for specific days and time slots, which can help sort the crowd to acceptable levels.

In addition to exhibition space and a mainstage for presentations of new books, there’s a children’s section and a series of appearances by film and stage actors in readings.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, Tbilisi is the current UNESCO World Book Capital, which Jobova says, has “made the return of the physical format for the festival particularly important.

Gvantsa Jobava

“We, as the book capital,” she says, “want to motivate and support our colleagues and friends around the world, those who have already managed to hold physical events and book fairs, and perhaps give everyone hope that we can soon return to pre-pandemic developments in the publishing industry.

“We want to say that it’s fully possible to come out of any crisis stronger, more motivated and more experienced than before. That’s why it’s crucial to hold the Tbilisi International Book Festival in physical form. Today the Georgian publishing industry needs to see hope like never before, and our festival gives it that hope.”

Not unlike the decision at the recent physically staged Abu Dhabi International Book Fair–with Guest of Honor Germany being held to next year’s program for a full staging–the Tbilisi show is moving its planned Focus Country Turkey programming to 2022. This year, however, Turkey is expected to send representatives to participate in the festival’s programming, much in the way that Germany mounted a stand at Abu Dhabi for this year’s show.

“Today the Georgian publishing industry needs to see hope like never before, and our festival gives it that hope.”Gvantsa Jobova, GPBA

In Tbilisi, the International Publishers Association is on hand, as well, with the association’s president, Bodour Al Qasimi, making a video address to guests at the opening of the program on Thursday.

In addition, IPA former presidents Hugo Setzer, Michiel Kolman, Richard Charkin, and Ana Maria Cabanellas will engage in an online panel discussion moderated by communications director James Taylor, reflecting the 125-year anniversary the IPA is observing this summer.

Jobova is on the executive committee of the IPA, herself, and was involved in the 2018 Guest of Honor Georgia program at Frankfurter Buchmesse. In Tbilisi, the festival’s “focus countries” have included Norway, which succeeded Georgia in Frankfurt. In addition, Germany and Finland have been focus countries at Georgia, prior to the Turkish program now set for 2022.

This year’s presentation of the Tbilisi International Book Festival is supported by the Georgian ministry of culture, sports, and youth; Tbilisi City Hall; and Writers’ House. Supplying its support as festival partner is TBC Bank.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Georgian market is here, more on the Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association is here, more on UNESCO’s World Book Capital program is here, and more on the International Publishers Association is here. Publishing Perspectives is the media partner for the International Publishers Association.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he 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.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (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.

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