Sharjah: The 12th Publishers Conference that kickstarted today in the lead up to the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair witnessed an unprecedented turnout of publishing stakeholders from the region and around the globe.
The conference was held in the presence of Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association.
Organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) at Expo Centre Sharjah, the three-day event presents a stimulating and inspiring vision of the future of publishing while also providing comprehensive insights into the current trends, challenges and opportunities in the industry.
In her keynote address, Bodour Al Qasimi commended the global publishing industry for its efforts in adapting to a changing world by taking steps towards more diversity and inclusion.
The IPA President said: “This is important because publishing today is facing so many intricate challenges and we cannot face them with one-dimensional thinking and a business-as-usual approach. We can only face them with a collaborative spirit and a willingness to listen to new voices.”
The IPA President urged publishers at the conference to not leave anyone behind but to work as a team to create sustainable solutions and move forward together. She said: “There is power in the unity of vision, just as there is power in the unity of action. And it’s the action we need not just around sustainability but also to ensure the principle of freedom to publish is upheld.”
‘Building a knowledge society’
Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman SBA, said: “The publishing industry is one of the main pillars of the Sharjah Cultural Project. This is a project that has witnessed significant growth under the directives and vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, with the aim of building a knowledge society and enhancing the role played by books for sustainable development to be achieved.”
Al Ameri pointed out the resilience of the publishing industry in adapting to crises with a flexible approach in finding innovative solutions. He said: “At SBA, we look forward to keeping the SIBF Publishers Conference as an open forum for sustainability and prosperity of the existing and future book industry. Today, we are keeping our word to support all individuals and entities working in this sector, and strengthen their cooperation, so as to develop new policies and strategies, which will maintain a sustainable and well-established industry and we are proud to announce that this year, we have 950 tables in the matchmaking hall.”
Guest of Honour spotlight: The Italian Book Market
Italy, celebrated as the Guest of Honour country at the 41st SIBF, was in the spotlight at the opening session of the conference that focused on ‘The Italian Book Market’.
Moderator Jacks Thomas, an international books and culture specialist, and currently Guest Director at BolognaBookPlus, said that with 5,000 publishing companies and a market worth 3.4 billion euros, the Italian book market - where 52 per cent of sales originate from bookstores - has been successfully responding to challenges, moving with times, and incorporating new voices and intellectual perspectives to advance the industry.
LeeAnn Bortolussi, Rights Manager at Giunti editore, a historic Florentine publishing company, pointed out that translation trends in children’s literature were similar to that of the adult book market in Italy. “Non-fiction, psychology and illustrated books continue to be popular. There is a very strong demand for light fiction and humour; traditional and modern versions of the graphic novel are gaining popularity in every format while history, lifestyle and self-improvement dominate the non-fiction category.”
With the cultural industry growing at a phenomenal rate in Italy, Carlo Gallucci, Publisher, Carlo Gallucci editore, said this was reflected in the growth in children’s literature too, adding that during the pandemic, there was a renewed interest in the tactile and illustrative nature of print books. The Italian publisher affirmed that the 2018 partnership with Sharjah’s Kalimat Group has led to a growing interest in bilingual books - both for the Arabic speaking population in Italy and Italian readers drawn to the distinctive illustrations and themes of the Arabic titles.
Marco Sbrozi, Editorial Director of Hoepli Publishing, noted that technological advancements in the publishing industry have widened the scope for a new kind of production that blends the paper version with digital solutions to reach a larger audience of readers. He added: “Technology also allows small and medium publishers to be present in different countries and markets to satisfy the unique needs of the readers in these markets.”