Sharjah’s Third Booksellers Conference: ‘Acumen and Dynamism’

In News by Porter Anderson

The second day of Sharjah Bookseller Conference featured commentary on family-owned retail companies and technology.

A round-table workshop at the 2024 Sharjah Booksellers Conference on the program’s second of two days. Image: SBA, Nabs Ahmedi

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

Also see:
Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, Again ‘Animated’
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’
Sharjah Book Authority: Bodour Al Qasimi’s First Year as Chair
Emirates Publishers Association Issues 10-Million-Dirham Sustainability Fund

Al Hassani: ‘Acumen and Dynamism’
As this story is written, there is some concern among the book-event organizers in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi that “unstable weather conditions” could adversely affect operations.

In the UAE’s third emirate Sharjah—which shared with Dubai a surprisingly difficult deluge of rain in late April—the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (today, May 1, through 12) has announced that it will operate all planned sessions on Thursday (May 2) until 4 p.m.

Schools have been closed for two days as a precaution, to keep buses out of potentially flooded roadways. Dubai is warning people to stay away from its beaches, “refrain from sailing, stay clear of valleys and areas prone to flash floods.” This, as standing water still is seen in parts of Sharjah from the April weather emergency.

Sharjah’s two-day Booksellers Conference (April 27 and 28), however, was held high-and-dry at Expo Centre Sharjah, drawing, as we’ve reported, more than 550 book distributors from 76 countries—a total that, incidentally, puts it easily on a par with the audience size attracted on Sunday (April 29) to Abu Dhabi’s International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries.

‘Elevating the Written Word’

From left, Sharjah Book Authority’s Fievel Hussain; Sharjah Booksellers Conference director Mansour Al Hassani; Sharjah Book Authority CEO Ahmed Al Ameri; andBooksellers Conference programming associate Emma House watch an onstage discussion in the third iteration of the conference. Image: SBA, Nabs Ahmedi

In looking at how this third iteration of the Sharjah Booksellers Conference has performed, its director, Mansour Al Hassani—who also directs publisher services for Sharjah Publishing City—says, “Sharjah Booksellers Conference has once again demonstrated the acumen and dynamism of the publishing industry, and we aim to provide an unparalleled platform for knowledge-sharing, networking, and strategic collaboration.

“This annual gathering is a testament to the collective vision of publishers, distributors, and booksellers worldwide to drive the growth and evolution of this vital sector.

“I’m confident that the insights, connections, and inspiration gained here will empower our community to navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead, ultimately elevating the written word and enriching the lives of readers globally.”

‘The Legacy of Our Family Businesses’

At Sharjah Booksellers Conference, Librairie Antoine’s Emile Tyan and Diwan Bookstores’ Nadia Wassef onstage. Image: SBA, Nabs Ahmedi

The Sunday session featured Emile Tyan, who is the chairman and CEO of Librairie Antoine, a bookstore chain established in 1933 in Lebanon.

In conversation onstage with Nadia Wassef, who co-founded Egypt’s Diwan Bookstores, Tyan said, “Honoring the legacy of our family businesses we have embraced the connection that comes from knowing our customers not just as patrons, but as generations of readers whose stories intertwine with ours.

“It’s this intimate understanding that transcends time, shaping the very essence of our trade.”

In addition, conference delegates heard from Ahmed Rewihel, co-founder and chief business officer of Arabookverse in the United Kingdom and Egypt, spoke to the question of technology and publishing, saying, “The digital revolution has ushered in a new era of boundless possibilities for the Arab publishing world. By embracing the power of ebooks and audiobooks, we can transcend geographical barriers and bring the written word to the fingertips of readers across the Arab world.”

The second day also included round-table workshops, as did the first day, with specific topical emphasis responsive to the issues being confronted by conferees.

A Word About the Sharjah and Abu Dhabi Calendars

There was an unprecedented emirate-to-emirate matchup of dates between this year’s Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (April 29 to May 5) and its pre-fair International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries (April 28) — and the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (May 1 to 12) and its pre-conference Sharjah Booksellers Conference (April 27 and 28).

This is why the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road (E311) between Abu Dhabi and Sharjah has been busily trafficked this week by international journalists shuttling the more-than two hours between emirates and their events, in some cases daily.

On Sunday (April 28), for example, the Abu Dhabi “Congress PCI” was staged at Manarat Al Saadiyat (our story is here) as the second day (of two) in the Sharjah Booksellers Conference was seated at Sharjah’s Expo Center.

In looking at this on the ground, however, and talking to pertinent organizers in both emirates, there appears to have been no conscious decision in either Sharjah or Abu Dhabi to operate these significant springtime events simultaneously. Indeed, most agree that the effect of such simultaneity may be “less impact,” as one programmer puts it, because these public-facing events are able to draw from some of each other’s audience.

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.