Sharjah’s Booksellers Conference: ‘Ecosystem Stakeholders’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2024 Sharjah Booksellers Conference drew more than 500 registrants and introduced the PublisHer Lounge.

Round-table workshops begin their sessions on April 27 in the third Sharjah Booksellers Conference. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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 Booksellers Conference Releases Its 2024 Agenda
At Sharjah’s Booksellers Conference: The ‘PublisHer Lounge’
Sharjah Book Authority: Bodour Al Qasimi’s First Year as Chair
Emirates Publishers Association Issues 10-Million-Dirham Sustainability Fund

‘Emerging Commercial Opportunities’
Running Saturday and today (April 28 and 29) in its third iteration, the Sharjah Booksellers Conference here in the United Arab Emirates has been a boisterously upbeat affair, boosted by reunions between colleagues and round-table workshops on some 30 topics.

Unique for its “pulling power” from so many parts of the world—as well as for its emphasis on limited, targeted presentations and hours of timely discussion and debate among peers—the “ecosystem stakeholders” that the Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi used in her welcoming keynote.

“We’re thrilled to welcome more than 550 book distributors from 76 countries around the world to Expo Centre Sharjah,” Al Qasimi said in a playbill note to attendees, “where you’ll have the opportunity to engage in keynote speeches, workshops, roundtables, and publisher pitches.”

Having become chairperson of the Sharjah Book Authority (and president of the American University of Sharjah) since her presidency of the International Publishers Association (IPA), Al Qasimi’s insights into the book business are based on leadership experiences across several economic sectors and at times can prompt her to offer an interesting concept that others might not have considered.

Opening Comments

Bodour Al Qasimi gives her keynote address to the 2024 Sharjah Bookseller Conference, with more than 550 registered. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

In speaking to the assembly, she stressed that “Collaboration is more vital than ever” in the interconnected world and economies of the international book trade today.

“Only by working together and supporting one another,” she told the conference delegates, “can we secure a prosperous future for our industry.”

And she offered a telling quotation: “The beginner plays within the boundaries. The competent explores the boundaries. The master knows when to ignore them.”

Building on that thought, Al Qasimi went on to say that despite the many competent and master practitioners in the international book business, “the boundaries in the publishing business have become increasingly difficult to define. And it’s in these transformative times that we must stand united.”

Because pressures on the book industry and on the markets in which it operates can be as starkly different as they are, she said, “the concerns of booksellers in our world can seem different from those in Asia, and the priorities of African publishers are not always aligned with those of European or Latin American counterparts.”

And yet, she said, “Our diversity remains our true strength. Look around you. This conference is a microcosm of global collaboration featuring professionals from Africa, the Arab region, Asia, South America, and Europe.”

Such diversity in the evolving industry of publishing ignites the industry’s forward motion, she said, and fosters truth.

The Booksellers Conference—supported by Book Authority’s 10-year CEO Ahmed Al Ameri and directed by Sharjah Publishing City‘s Mansour Al Hassani—is programmed by Emma House, and organized with the help of Tony Mulliken. And the combined effect of these players’ contributions make them all ecosystem stakeholders.

“The conference promises to be an exciting and informative two-day event, designed to showcase global ecosystem stakeholders, upskill professionals, and uncover emerging commercial opportunities in the Arab region and beyond.”

Professional Input and Exchanges

Andrea Giunti, chief of Italy’s largest bookstore chain, the 267-store Giunti al Punta line, speaks to conference delegates on April 27. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

As it would turn out, our Publishing Perspectives onstage interview with Andrea Giunti, the executive vice-president of the Florence-based Giunti al Punto bookstores would make it clear how readily the Giunti group of some 30 companies works an ecosystem of stakeholders of its own, and yet one that works in concert with others.

We’ll have coverage of Andrea Giunti’s comments in an upcoming article.

In addition, the opening sessions of the conference featured author and businesswoman Raja Easa Al Gurg, whose commentary also will be explored in an upcoming story, as based on her interview with Dubai-based publisher Iman Ben Chaibah, founder of Sail Publishing.

An interesting look at the diversity that Al Qasimi had pointed to in the business came to light as many of the delegates queued up at the inaugural PublisHer Lounge welcoming women in the business to specially prepared professional sessions for them.

Al Qasimi reported that PublisHer now has some 1,000 members in its network of women in international book publishing.

A session in the PublisHer Lounge on April 27 at the Sharjah Booksellers Conference. Image: SBA, Nabs Ahmedi

As Raja Al Gurg began signing copies of her book for those waiting, many attendees noticed that men as well as women were waiting in line for a copy.

Al Qasimi counseled the delegates starting their round-table sessions to “listen to each other and learn from their experiences” as, clearly, some had done to Raja Al Gurg’s comments.

“Together we can navigate the challenges and embrace the opportunities ahead,” Al Qasimi said, adding that the development of AI need not be seen as an automatic threat to book publishing if professionals in the industry remember that in the past, technological changes have been handled and adapted as needed.

And as the delegates got down to discussions in their workshops and PublisHer Lounge sessions, some will be staying to the opening on Wednesday (May 1) of the 2024 Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival and its Animation Conference.

Author and businesswoman Raja Easa Al Gurg speaks to Bookseller Conference delegates on April 27. Image: SBA, Nabs Ahmedi

More from Publishing Perspectives about the Sharjah Booksellers Conference is here, more on PublisHer is here, and more on Sharjah and its market is here.

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.