Sharjah’s 42nd Book Fair: More Than 1.2 Million Visitors

In News by Porter Anderson

Early numbers from the UAE indicate that the 2023 Sharjah International Book Fair has drawn at least 1.2 million visitors.

In one of the exhibition floors at the 42nd Sharjah International Book Fair which organizers say attracted at least 1.2 million visitors this year. Image: SBA

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

Al Ameri: ‘Regional and International Professionals’
In Sharjah International Book Fair‘s closing hours today (November 12), organizers have reported preliminarily that the 42nd edition of the show drew more than 1.2 million visitors during this public-facing event’s 12-day run. It’s likely that more numbers will be forthcoming as the book fair staff goes over them, and this initial figure may be updated.

Ahmed Al Ameri, CEO of Sharjah Book Authority, made the announcement during an appearance on Sharjah News Channel’s Book Hour program, according to regional news media in the Gulf, and the show’s success follows an especially strong Sharjah Publishers Conference of industry programming, workshops, and one-on-one meetings.

Al Ameri is quoted in the evening’s reports, saying, “This message and the corresponding level of responsibility testify not only to the book fair’s importance, but also affirm Sharjah’s growing status as a welcoming hub for publishers and creators worldwide, [as a place] where they can convene and flourish.”

Ahmed Al Ameri

As Al Ameri pointed out, the book fair is a flagship enterprise of the third emirate’s author-ruler, Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimiwho opened the show on November 1—having devised the fair not only as a central symbol of his intention to make Sharjah a “reading emirate” but also as an economically critical boon to many of the Arab world’s publishers, who know this fair as their biggest revenue-generator in book sales each year.

Within days of the opening ceremony this year, it was announced that Sheikh Sultan had allocated 4.5 million dirhams (US$1.2 million) for the acquisition of new publications presented at the book fair, so that public and government libraries in the United Arab Emirates could deepen their collections with new and wide-ranging publications being presented this year by the show’s reported 2,033 publishers who are based, in the aggregate, in 109 world markets—that latter figure showing that Sharjah’s exhibition floor draws exhibitors from far beyond the Arab world’s nations.

The publishers, in fact, have been reported by the show’s administration to comprise 1,043 Arab houses and 990 non-Arab presses.

Bodour Al Qasimi: ‘Regional and International Professionals’

The Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, who is the chair of the Book Authority, spoke about her father’s allocation for library purchases of books at the fair, saying, “The grant from His Highness is a continuation of Sharjah’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the publishing industry and enrich both public and government libraries.

Bodour Al Qasimi

“The support offered by the Sharjah ruler each year enables publishers to continue to grow and expand. It also updates Sharjah’s libraries with new releases across genres of science, knowledge, and literature, which enables them to better serve their members and visitors and continue fostering a knowledge-based society.”

Sharjah International Book Fair, she said, “has evolved into a holistic event that encompasses vital roles of book promotion and marketing, as well as the enhancement of culture and knowledge-related activities. It has also emerged as a global platform that empowers publishers to overcome challenges through support, training, awards, and other resources. All these contributions have further solidified Sharjah’s appeal as a preferred destination for regional and international professionals in the book industry.

“Furthermore,” Al Qasimi said, “the emirate’s libraries have become go-to destinations for students and researchers, owing to the wealth of knowledge and diverse range of books and publications they offer.” And in the educational realm, Al Qasimi has particular expertise, having taken the post of president of the American University in Sharjah after finishing her two-year term as president of the International Publishers Association (IPA).

Bodour Al Qasimi also issued a directive providing book-purchase vouchers to school students visiting the fair, to get more books into young readers’ hands and into their homes while making the fair more lucrative for exhibiting publishers, as well.

The Sheikha Bodour during the course of the fair also reportedly announced a 3-million-dirham fund (US$816,904) of available incentive grants to publishers who relocate or create new business centers at Sharjah Publishing City—the free trade zone opened in 2017. While being exempted from 90 percent of licensing and business fees, publishers who take advantage of this new offer must agree to publish at least five books within 12 months.

Mansour Al Hassani: ‘A Distinct Prospect for Publishers’

Mansour Al Hassani is the Book Authority’s director of publisher services and currently the acting director of Publishing City. In the latest announcement, he says, “This initiative exemplifies our steadfast dedication to fortifying our role as a global epicenter for publishing, printing and distribution.

Mansour Al Hassani

“The SPC Free Zone is wholly committed to empowering investors to harness the full spectrum of our extraordinary opportunities and advantages.”

The fair, Al Hassani says, “presents a distinct prospect for publishers to integrate into an international community that has chosen Sharjah as its corporate base. New entrants will have the chance to participate in the success that the SPC Free Zone has cultivated over the years, nurturing an environment conducive to collaboration, proficiency, and knowledge exchange within a competitive landscape.”

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the Ingram Content Group‘s installation of its Lightning Source Sharjah print-on-demand system—a joint venture with Publishing City that’s been operational since July 2022—has given the facility a new position in both printing and distribution capabilities in the Arab world and North African region.

On the exhibition floor of the 2023 Sharjah International Book Fair. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

See also:
Sharjah International Book Fair Opens Its 42nd Edition

Sharjah Publishers Conference Opens: ‘The Power of the Written Word’
Sharjah Publishers Conference Introduces New Format
Sharjah International Book Fair: Hosting 108 Markets

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sharjah Book Authority is here, more on the Sharjah International book Fair is here, more on Sharjah and its programs overall is here, more on the book publishing industry in the United Arab Emirates is here, and more on international trade shows and book fairs is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

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.