Wrap-up of the Sharjah International Book Fair, 2010

Photo, "sun sets on Sharjah Book Fair," borrowed from Lisa Dempster's blog.

Sharjah’s 2010 book fair came to a close last night, with The National suggesting it might be the fair’s biggest year yet for attendance.
But more than attendance, the stunning thing about the Sharjah fair is how quickly it has been turning itself from a consumer-oriented fair (like Cairo) to one that’s for consumers, amateur writers, academics, and book professionals.

I am a fan of Cairo’s insane book fair, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt us to throw in a bit more culture, too. That’s in addition to the people walking around dressed like flower pots, of course.

From a piece I wrote for Al Masry Al Youm:

According to Sharjah fair director Ahmed al-Amri, in 2007 there were only nine cultural events at the fair. Residents might have attended a poetry reading or two, but the ten-day festival was mostly a way for city residents to gain access to a large selection of discounted books from around the region.

At this year’s fair, residents still filled shopping carts with Arabic, English and French books. But the cultural and professional side of the fair was far different.

“What we did last year,” al-Amri said, “was we increased from around ten [professional and cultural events] to 150. This year is 200-something.”

But it’s still a fair for consumers, too. Fair-goers did wheel their shopping carts up and down the aisles, and, The National reported: “The general consensus from publishers was that the book fair is one of the best in the region, in terms of sales.”

The newspaper didn’t have any hard numbers (which I suppose you couldn’t expect, since the fair only ended at 10 p.m. last night), but an anecdotal feeling from a few publishers that it was a good fair.

The same was reported in Gulf Today (although I’m not quite sure why this book-seller’s comment was on the condition of anonymity):

Despite that, the participants claimed good business. “Agreed, you will find the books here that are also available in the shop outside. But there are many books that are being displayed properly here and have attracted book lovers who never paid attention to those books at the store,” said a participant on the condition of anonymity.

According to @ShjIntlBookFair, the 30th Edition will be held from the 15-26 November, 2011.

More from the 29th fair:

Blog posts by Lisa Dempster, writer, editor and director of Australia’s Emerging Writers’ Festival, who was a guest at Sharjah 2010. Lisa wrote about several aspects of the fair.

The National: Fair trade: Sharjah International Book Fair
An impressionistic view of the first day of the fair….

The National: Publisher to promote Emirati authors
An Emirates-based publishing house plans to promote aspiring Emirati writers and increase readership among the young after releasing nine books during the Sharjah International Book Fair….

Gulf Today: Book fair concludes with great impact
A representative of Darussalam said that they sold books at the fair at 20 per cent less than the usual price….

Gulf News: A growing influence
[Fair Director Ahmed] Al Amri said that the organisers’ idea is to ensure that the book fair is seen as an international event….