By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Al Qasimi: ‘To Enrich Global Culture’Having closed the 2022 edition of Sharjah International Book Fair with a major turnout of 2.17 million visitors from 112 countries, Sharjah Book Authority has announced that South Korea will be the guest of honor market at its 2023 Sharjah International Book Fair, set to run November 1 to 12.
The news arrives less than three months after Sharjah was guest of honor at the Seoul International Book Fair in mid-June, and during that engagement, Seoul named Sharjah—the United Arab Emirates’ third-largest emirate—the new regional home for South Korea’s Sejong Institute. The Sejong, established in 2007, is the Asian nation’s cultural- and language-outreach organization akin to Germany’s Goethe-Institut.
This year’s Sharjah fair—considered the largest event of its kind in the Arab world—will be in its 42nd year, and organizers anticipate what they’re describing as “a rich cultural program of activities and events that reflect the aesthetics and diversity of the Korean culture, which is particularly popular among youth.”
The exhibition floor at Sharjah Exposition Center is indeed generally crowded with youngsters, brought to the fair both by parents and school programs, meaning that many aspects of K-pop may play well at the show this year. The guest of honor pavilion is to host authors and other cultural figures from the Korean industry, and book fair attendees will find not only panel discussions but also culinary events and artistic performances. The 2022 fair reported hosting a total 2,213 publishers from 95 countries with speakers for its programming events from 57 countries.
As in many markets, the Sharjah show is very much a selling fair at which publishers and booksellers from the North African and Middle Eastern region count on making substantial parts of their annual revenue. The presence of a strong and attractive guest of honor program can boost the draw, and book sales with it, in an influential public-facing fair of this kind, and it makes sense that the East Asian appeal will be a strong one across the UAE and other Gulf states.
Sharjah International Book Fair “has served as a platform for publishers, book industry professionals, and libraries to flourish, build partnerships, and strengthen relationships with their target audience.”Bodour Al Qasimi
This will also be the first year in which the book fair is operated under the aegis of the Book Authority’s newly transitioned leadership structure.
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, a newly named board of directors was announced in May for Sharjah Book Authority—the framework for the emirate’s development of Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi‘s vision of a “reading emirate.” The transitional work of the Book Authority was underway in July, as we reported.
Bodour Al Qasimi, the Sharjah publisher (Kalimat Group) who is the immediate past president of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and new president of the American University of Sharjah, now is chair of the Book Authority Board, with Ahmed Al Ameri as CEO. While the board includes several regional business leaders—among them Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates Airlines’ divisional senior vice-president for international affairs—it also now features several very highly placed world publishing figures from outside the Middle East:
- Markus Dohle, the Penguin Random House CEO-emeritus, Indigo board member, and executive vice-president of the PEN America board, who spoke with Publishing Perspectives onstage at Sharjah’s Bookseller’s Conference on May 1
- John Ingram, chairman of Ingram Content Group (you’ll recall that Ingram has made a major installation of a Lightning Source print-on-demand center at Publishing City)
- Youngsuk ‘YS’ Chi, chairman of Elsevier and a past president of the International Publishers Association (IPA)
- Gaurav Shrinagesh, CEO of the India and South East Asia divisions of Penguin Random House, and a member of PRH’s global executive committee
Al Ameri: A ‘Gateway for New Cultural Accomplishments’
Al Qasimi, who met at the Seoul book fair with the South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee, in announcing Guest of Honor South Korea at Sharjah, says that thanks to Sheikh Sultan’s lead, “We are elevating [Sharjah International Book Fair’s] role to enrich global culture.
“It has served as a platform for publishers, book industry professionals, and libraries to flourish, build partnerships, and strengthen relationships with their target audience.
“Moreover, the event has broadened the horizons for newer developments in Arab culture, enabling it to reach broader segments of society.”
And the Book Authority CEO Al Ameri says that Sheikh Sultan’s vision “has transformed the emirate into a prominent hub of culture and education in the region and around the world.
“Sharjah International Book Fair is designed,” Al Ameri says, “on Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi’s belief that books and knowledge create the strongest and most sustainable foundations for longstanding cultural dialogue between nations and peoples. It also opens new avenues for partnerships and collaboration between the UAE’s and Arab world’s knowledge market with their global counterparts.
“This November, South Korean culture, history, customs and practices, and their scientific and technological advancements will meet Emirati culture’s authentic Arab values, rich history, and heritage.
“This represents an opportunity,” he says, “for the public, publishers, library owners, and book institutions to directly engage with a distinguished culture of the far east.
“Sharjah International Book Fair serves as a platform to strengthen connections with local and global markets. At the same time, our guest of honor program has served as an ideal gateway for new cultural accomplishments like the establishment of institutes, signing of partnerships, and the launching of initiatives over the past years that brought Sharjah and the UAE closer to nations worldwide.”
Under its new board, the Book Authority will again precede the book fair’s opening with a three-day Sharjah Publishers Conference, set to run October 29 through 31, followed by the opening of the book fair on November 1. Details of the conference are to be released soon.
More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sharjah Book Authority is here, more on Sharjah overall is here, more on the work of Bodour Al Qasimi is here, and more on the book publishing industry in the United Arab Emirates is here.
Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.