The director of the book office, Djamel Foughali, told the Algérie Presse Service that the measure was being taken as part of attempts to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The decision, according to APS, was made in consultation with representatives of Algerian publishers and the Ministry of Culture, in view of “the impossibility of holding this event, which draws more than a million visitors each year, during this exceptional pandemic period,” Foughali said.
This will be devastating to the Algerian publishers who had said, this spring, that recovery was possible only if SILA went forward. Salim Brahimi, of Algeria’s Z-Link Editions, said back in May that if things reopen “before the Algiers International Book Fair, which takes place in October, then there is a chance that recovery will take place. If the Covid-19 crisis persists beyond that, then the consequences will be dramatic.”
Nadia Ghanem, ArabLit’s Morocco and Algeria editor, called this “catastrophic news”:
so the latest news on Algiers' bookfair (SILA) is that it will be held online… catastrophic news for publishers big and small who earn their year's income in the 10 days of the salon https://t.co/LXoK4cerAg— nadia (@tamacahut) August 17, 2020
The schedule of the virtual edition has not yet been finalized, but APS reported that SILA is expected to host meetings, debates and other roundtable discussions. An online sales platform project is also under consideration. However, any major online event or platform will face serious challenges, as Ghanem notes:
so far they say they'll "try" to organise an online bookshop, but i doubt it will work, plus the internet connection is much too weak for stable online meetings with 100s of people attending 😭— nadia (@tamacahut) August 17, 2020
Djamel Foughali also suggested that the Ministry of Culture will adopt “special measures to support and energize the book industry in Algeria in this exceptional period,” yet without giving additional details. The APS report suggested that additional local book events and fairs “in several cities” might be organized once the public-health situation allows.
SILA, which is one of Algeria’s main literary events, is traditionally held each year at the end of October and beginning of November. In 2019, SILA saw the participation of 1030 publishing houses from 36 countries, including 298 Algerian houses. Organizers say more than a million people attended.