By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Al Ameri: ‘Books Are the Cornerstone’In a news conference at the Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone complex in the United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Book Authority‘s leadership has announced that as many as 2,033 publishers and exhibitors from a record-breaking 108 markets are expected to participate in its 2023 Sharjah International Book Fair (November 1 to 12).
Publishing Perspectives readers are very familiar with this major public-facing book fair, which in its 42nd year is on track to top its previous range of multinational representation with the participation of publishing personnel from those 108 markets. As we’ve reported, South Korea is to appear as the guest of honor market this year, and its presentation is to include almost 30 instances of cultural programming, panel discussions, and musical events.
For trade visitors and exhibitors at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22), Sharjah Book Authority’s stand this year is at Hall 5.1 / A12.
At this year’s Expo Centre Sharjah, the complex’s sprawling exhibition floors are expected to present some 1.5 million titles, the show being themed “We Speak Books.” Those titles are said to break down into some 800,000 works in Arabic, with as many as 700,000 in other languages.
A roster of 127 invited guests will be participating this year in a program of 460 cultural activities across the 12-day run of the show. Factoring in additional programming and authors appearing in various events during the book fair, as many as 600 writers, both regional and international, will be signing books for consumers in an agenda of what’s reported to be more than 1,700 activities led by 215 presenters from 69 markets.
Publishers Conference: Al Qasimi, Cabutí, Chapman, Yoon
Of particular relevance to our internationalist industry professional readership, the annual Publishers Conference will again immediately precede the book fair itself, this year in its 13th iteration, running October 29 to 31.
At least 41 speakers and specialists have been engaged for the event, with a total 31 round tables operating in targeted workshop events, a model premiered with broad success in May at Sharjah’s Booksellers Conference, programmed in association with Emma House.
Conference speakers this year include:
- Bodour Al Qasimi, chair of Sharjah Book Authority and president of the American University of Sharjah
- Núria Cabutí , CEO of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, in conversation with Publishing Perspectives
- Ian Chapman, CEO and publisher with Simon & Schuster’s international divisions
- Yoon Chul Ho, president of the Korean Publishers Association for Guest of Honor South Korea
With literary agents and publishers representing 105 markets at the conference this year, professionals and companies from 11 nations will be participating for the first time this year. They are Benin, Ivory Coast, the Czech Republic, Mauritius, Paraguay, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Guinea, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
During the conference, winners of the Sharjah Publisher Recognition Award will be announced with 58 candidates including 42 literary agents, and 16 publishers from 58 countries who applied for the award. In addition, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)-led Accessible Books Consortium has chosen the Publishers Conference to announce the winners of the second edition of the ABC International Excellence Award for Accessible Publishing, honoring publishers who produce books for the visually impaired.
Al Ameri: ‘A Silk Road for Publishers’
In a readout of his Wednesday (October 11) press conference provided to Publishing Perspectives, Sharjah Book Authority CEO Ahmed Al Ameri emphasized Sharjah’s position as a hub connecting East and West, something immediately evident each year in the internationalist mix of publishing professionals at the Publishers Conference and the book fair.
As directed by Sharjah’s Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi—with his determined concept of an emirate devoted to the arts and business of literature—Al Ameri invoked the metaphor of a new Silk Road for publishers, a channel of trade and artistry traveled by those who appreciate the world industry’s ongoing development of its connections across borders and continents, regions and religions.
He also made the point that Sheikh Sultan’s daughter, the Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi—the immediate past president of the International Publishers Association (IPA)—has been indispensably critical in the fulfillment of that concept, guiding, as he said, “the advancement of the publishing industry in Sharjah, in the UAE, and the world.
“She has laid solid foundations for the development of the country’s publishing sector,” Al Ameri said. “Today, she continues this journey as the chair of the Sharjah Book Authority.”
Al Ameri this year is emphasizing the nation-building dynamic of literature’s role in the world, something evident in so many of Sheikh Sultan’s own published writings about Arab history and the development of the United Arab Emirates.
Just last year, the author-emir published The Biography of the Sultans of Kilwa and an account of the Al Ghafla, a clan of the Al Ghazi tribe from Bani Lam. This year’s releases are led by The Dawn of Utub’s Rule in Bahrain and a History of Nabhani Kings in Oman between 1154 and 1622 AD.
“Today, we’re not only here to announce the details of Sharjah International Book Fair 2023 but also to take a new step in a cultural project that has been evolving for 42 years. This project emphasizes that books are the cornerstone of developmental plans for countries in the region and globally.
“That’s why we have chosen the theme ‘We Speak Books’ for the 42nd edition.”
Speaking for the incoming South Korean guest of honor program, Moon Byung-iun, consul general of the Republic of Korea, said, “Korea’s methods of modernizing its culture while preserving its past roots align perfectly with Sharjah’s values of supporting cultural creativity while preserving its local heritage and history.
“I believe that the cultural exchange between Sharjah and South Korea will continue to deepen and therefore open new paths of exchange that were never explored before. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Sharjah Book Authority for their amazing efforts to bring more than 20 South Korean authors, novelists, poets, and calligraphers to Sharjah to exhibit their work and share their knowledge through talks, workshops and many more cultural programs.”
The South Korean program is expected to feature a delegation including artists Kyung Hyewon, Kim Sangkeun, and Park Hyunmin, accompanied by author Jeong Munee; Ahn Jina of Okinawa International University; Kim Ho of Seoul National University Asia Center; and Lee Hee at Hanyang University Soo.
At Frankfurter Buchmesse, the Korean Publishers Association can be found at Hall 6.1 / A70.
A 120-Attendee Publishers’ Training Program with NYU
In picking up on Al Ameri’s comments about the theme for this year, Khoula Al Mujaini, the general coordinator of the book fair, said, “‘We Speak Books‘ embodies Sharjah International Book Fair’s comprehensive vision for the book and culture industry.
“It has evolved beyond an event for buying and selling books to become a global hub for exchanging expertise, ideas, and knowledge. It also serves as a platform for securing publishing and translation agreements and a forum for discussing literary, artistic, and intellectual issues, attracting a diverse audience from all segments of society, whether they are avid book readers or interested in creative industries related to books.”
This year’s programming around the Sharjah International Book Fair and its Publishers Conference will include a Publishers’ Training program devised by Sharjah Book Authority and New York University (NYU), which has long worked with Sharjah on its programs and has its Abu Dhabi campus nearby.
As many as 120 publishers are expected to participate in this year’s program, which is centered on international publishing standards and practices. The group is to include 20 Emirati publishers, 50 Arab publishers from other parts of the region, and 50 African publishers. The curriculum being prepared for this year’s program will explore the potency of podcasts and storytelling in augmenting profits in the publishing realm, as well as data strategies for book marketing.
Among prominent Emirati writers and others making appearances this year are poet Khaled Al-Badou; Mashael Al Nabooda; Adel Khozam; Mohammed Al Jokar; Suad Al-Araimi; Fathia Al Nimr; Aisha Al-Ghais; and Saeed Al Badi.
International guests scheduled to speak at points during the 12-day run of the show include journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell; Indian actress Kareena Kapoor; Swedish behavioral expert and author Thomas Erikson; Nigerian playwright and novelist Wole Soyinka; British-Pakistani novelist and writer Mohsin Hamid; Czech-Canadian scientist Vaclav Smil; American astronaut Sunita Williams; Dutch author Swami Purnachaitanya; and Indian writer Monika Halan.
Six “interactive spaces” are being used this year for some 900 workshops at the fair in programming targeted to various age demographics. A reported 130 theatrical and musical performances are part of the public-facing programming, featuring performers and others from 14 markets. One event in this series is the premiere of a musical for youngsters on the problem of bullying called Barcode Prison, an Emirati production directed by Marwen Abdullah Saleh.
Sharjah International Book Fair 2023 is supported by a range of sponsors and partners, including Etisalat as the official sponsor, Sharjah Broadcasting Authority as the show’s official media partner, and Expo Centre Sharjah as the program’s strategic partner.
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.