Sharjah Book Authority: Bodour Al Qasimi’s First Year as Chair

In News by Porter Anderson

Bodour Al Qasimi talks about her first year as chair of the Sharjah Book Authority and her outlook for the emirate’s place in world publishing.

Bodour Al Qasimi speaks on April 8 at the inaugural PublishHer Excellence Awards during the 61st Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

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

Also see:
Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, Again ‘Animated’
Sharjah’s Third Booksellers Conference: ‘Acumen and Dynamism’
PulisHer Signs Visa as Sponsor of Its New Lounge at Sharjah’s Conference
Sharjah’s Booksellers Conference: ‘Ecosystem Stakeholders’
Sharjah Booksellers Conference Releases Its 2024 Agenda
At Sharjah’s Booksellers Conference: The ‘PublisHer Lounge’
Emirates Publishers Association Issues 10-Million-Dirham Sustainability Fund

‘Essential Steps in Our Evolution’
This month, on April 27 and 28 and then on May 1 to 12, the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), under CEO Ahmed Al Ameri‘s direction, will produce the triple-challenge of its 2024 Booksellers Conference, Children’s Reading Festival, and Animation Conference.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, it was announced in mid-May of last year that the Book Authority in the United Arab Emirates’ third emirate Sharjah would be led by Bodour Al Qasimi, the Sharjah publisher (Kalimat Group) who is the immediate past president of the International Publishers Association (IPA), the founder of PublisHer, and the new president of the American University of Sharjah.

At that time, Al Qasimi was forming a new board for the Book Authority, with several highly influential international publishing players being named board members:

‘Diverse Expertise and Innovative Outlook’

As Al Qasimi’s first year in her role as chair of a newly energized Book Authority concludes in these events, we’ve had a chance to ask how she has found her work, particularly in light of her high-powered board and so many years of the authority’s work, developing Sharjah’s reputation as a book-focused culture.

Related article: ‘UAE: Sharjah’s Book Authority Establishes a Board of Directors.’ Image: Nabs Ahmedi

It’s been truly invigorating to work with a team of such remarkable individuals over the last few months,” says Al Qasimi, who spoke with Publishing Perspectives at the 61st Bologna Children’s Book Fair last week.

“Working closely with a board made up not only of seasoned publishing professionals, but also leaders from a variety of sectors,” she says, “has been a refreshing and enlightening experience. Each member brings a unique perspective that enriches our discussions about the future of the SBA and our role in maintaining and enhancing our position as a global leader in the book and culture industry.”

Indeed, Sharjah Book Authority—built by decree to bring to life the concept of Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi of that reading-and-publishing emirate—was formed 10 years ago, in 2024 and in a single decade has delivered on a portfolio of events and programs that could easily make many far older markets envious.

“It’s a challenge to build on the SBA’s past accomplishments and successes,” the Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi now says, “but I’m confident that this board, with its diverse expertise and innovative outlook, is perfectly placed to help the SBA seize the right opportunities and not only build on our legacy but also expand our portfolio. Our goal is not just growth for the sake of expansion; it’s about strategically positioning the SBA to thrive in a changing global landscape and ensuring that we continue to play a central role in transforming the world through the power of the written word.”

By late July, the newly constituted Book Authority board was in active transition, Al Qasimi leading her internal leadership group to assess where the program stood and what lay ahead.

Related article: ‘Sharjah Book Authority Begins Its Transitional Phase.’ Image: Nabs Ahmedi

The transition with a new board and a new chairperson,” Al Qasimi tells us, “naturally brings a new vision for any organization and requires some changes to make the new direction a reality. We don’t see these changes as challenges, but as essential steps in our evolution. Our main focus,” she says, “is to manage these changes effectively while ensuring that the SBA’s operations continue to run smoothly. This is crucial, given our extensive and ambitious portfolio of events and projects which are integral to Sharjah’s leadership in the cultural and literary field.”

Indeed, elements of emphasis and focus are important at this stage, Al Qasimi says.

“As we move forward in our discussions and strategy development with the board, we’re discovering exciting opportunities. We’re currently focused on narrowing down our priorities for the coming year and developing a comprehensive five-year strategy that will guide our future initiatives.

“We’re looking at various new initiatives to support and drive our growth. We plan to announce these developments as soon as they’re fully developed and approved.”Bodour Al Qasimi, Sharjah Book Authority

“This process is critical to ensure that the SBA not only adapts to the changing landscape, but also thrives and continues to make an important contribution to the cultural and literary sectors.”

And this process of strategizing for the next half-decade, Al Qasimi says, is the basis for the board’s current effort—less about new programs and more about shoring up and deepening the work that’s been done.

“Currently, our main goal is to refine and develop our existing portfolio to ensure that it reflects the changing dynamics of the publishing and literary landscape,” Al Qasimi says. “This includes optimizing our current programs to increase their impact and relevance.”

Nevertheless, the strategy takes into account that fresh directions may be important. “At the same time,” she says, “we’re looking at various new initiatives to support and drive our growth. We plan to announce these developments as soon as they’re fully developed and approved.”

‘The Impact of AI and Technology’

Al Qasimi is fully cognizant that the unique development of author-emir Sheikh Sultan’s emphasis on literature in the UAE has depended on discipline, vision, and commitment.

Related article: At the 2023 Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, a new ‘Animation Conference Opens in Sharjah With Music.’ Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

One thing many visitors will look forward to seeing on May 1 is Sheikh Sultan’s tour of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival—a 12-day program he never fails to open personally.

“The foresight and leadership of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi and our collective efforts,” his daughter says, “have indeed placed books and reading at the heart of Sharjah’s cultural identity and set a global standard in the publishing and literature sector. We’re proud of this achievement and determined to build on it.

“As we look to the future today,” she says, “the most pressing question for publishers everywhere is the impact of AI and technology on our industry.

“The truth is that we’re still in the early stages of understanding the full potential and challenges. This lack of clarity makes it difficult to forecast and plan with certainty. However, we see this not only as a challenge, but also as a great opportunity. It motivates us to become more flexible and agile so that we can seize the opportunities that these technologies offer. Our goal is to manage this uncertainty by being proactive, adaptable, and forward-looking.”

In our conversation, as we look ahead to the upcoming events at the end of this month—now in the UAE’s 52nd year as the nation we know—we ask about Al Qasimi’s view of Sharjah’s relationship to the world community of professional publishing, something her IPA presidency focused on in her 2022-2023 term.

In line with our vision articulated and reiterated on numerous occasions,” she says, “Sharjah is strongly committed to building cultural bridges through the Sharjah Book Authority and other cultural institutions. Our aim is to promote dialogue that enhances cultural acceptance, understanding, and peace worldwide. At a time when the call for unity and harmony is more urgent than ever, we believe that Sharjah offers an opportunity for the global publishing and cultural sectors.”

Both culturally and geographically at a nexus of growth and change, Sharjah’s literary and publishing focus so far, Al Qasimi knows, has given the emirate a singular potential in the international business.

“Our strategic position as a cultural crossroads,” she says, “enables us to serve as an ideal cultural and business bridge-builder between East and West and between North and South. This unique role underscores the immense potential for fruitful partnerships that can go beyond business transactions and promote meaningful cultural exchange.

“I’d therefore like to extend a warm invitation to our colleagues from all over the world: Come to Sharjah, get involved with us and discover the many opportunities for collaboration. By doing business in Sharjah, you’ll not only broaden your professional horizons, but also actively contribute to building bridges that pave the way for cultural harmony.”

More on Sharjah Book Authority and its programming is heremore on Sharjah overall is here, more on the work of Bodour Al Qasimi is here, more on the book publishing industry in the United Arab Emirates is heremore on the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival is here, and more on publishing issues and trends in the Arab world is here.

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

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

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.