Muscat: Organisers are counting on reduced prices to push the number of visitors at the 14th edition of the Muscat International Book Fair, which kicked off yesterday, over the million mark.

"Last year, over 800,000 people visited this annual exhibition and we are hoping that this time there will be more than [a] million people coming to the exhibition," Saeed Al Busaidi, a member of the organising committee, told Gulf News yesterday.

Al Busaidi said English books were being displayed in a separate section altogether. "We have more English titles than the previous years as the exhibition itself is growing in size," he pointed out.

He said 25 countries were taking part in the exhibition and several new titles were to be unveiled. "Twenty-two countries [are] taking part directly and three countries are being represented indirectly through publishers," he said.

Some 570 publishing houses, including 30 Omani bookshops, have set up stalls at the at the Oman International Exhibition Centre. The exhibition ends on March 16.

Al Busaidi said the book fair also aimed to promote greater interaction between authors, publishers, and all those concerned with books at a professional level. He expressed the hope that such events would help encourage more Omanis to take to books, especially the younger generation.

Over 100,000 titles on a vast range of subjects are on display at the fair but Al Busaidi said books on education, religion and history were sure to evoke the greatest interest. "All types of books do good business but every year these three categories are in great demand," he said.

The organisers have made it binding on exhibitors to offer a discount of 25 per cent or more on the printed price on all books. Again, only CDs associated with books can be sold at the fair.

Lectures, poetry recitals and story-telling among other activities have made the event more appealing.

The book fair will be open to the public daily from 9 am to 1 pm, and from 5 pm to 10 pm, except on Fridays when it will be open from 5 pm to 10 pm.

The morning sessions of February 28 and March 2 will be for women only.