With the first week of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) over, the balance could not be more favourable, according to the data emerging from the Publishers' Conference, held as one of the major events of the show. Of the 1,632 publishers and literary agents in attendance from 83 countries, 546 of them have concluded rights sales, which the chairman of the conference, Ahmed bin Rakkad al-Ameri, describes as historic.
The Fair is showcasing more than 15 million books, including 1.3 million exclusive titles. 110,000 are on display for the first time in the Emirate of Sharjah. At the end of the conference, Al-Ameri told Atalayar that "the goal of becoming not only the first point of the publishing industry in the Arab world, but in the whole world, has been achieved ahead of time". He sees this as a good culmination after having attended several of the most important book fairs as a guest country: Paris, Moscow, Madrid, New Delhi and Sao Paulo.
Despite the unstoppable rise of digitalisation, Al-Ameri denies that paper will relinquish its leadership as the main medium for reading. He recalls that during the Sao Paulo conference in 2014, the publishing industry was leaning towards the e-book as the primary medium of the future. "This has not been the case. We are in 2021 and more and more I observe that readers, the old ones of course, but also a large part of the new ones, are opting for paper. I believe that the touch and smell of books provoke irreplaceable sensations". However, he himself qualifies that, on the contrary, there will be an explosion in the production of audiobooks, a system that in his opinion is increasingly on the rise in view of the dizzying pace of human activity.
In the interview he expresses a special satisfaction with regard to Spain, and he unravels like a litany a torrent of Spanish words that have their roots in Arabic, and states categorically that 30% of our language has drunk from the "abundant sources of Arabic, a language that has 12,350,000 words, which makes it the richest in the world".
One of his immediate objectives is precisely the universal dissemination of the Arabic language: "I firmly believe that events like this help a lot to make Western citizens interested in our authors, to get to know our culture better and to deepen the exchange of ideas". He endorses the words of the Amir of Sharjah, Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, to all visiting politicians and leaders: "Building strong societies and civilisations can only be done through knowledge and books. That is why one of al-Ameri's goals is to promote Arabic language teaching around the world, building his own model, which would nonetheless take elements from institutions such as the British Council, the Cervantes and Goethe Institutes and the Alliance Française.
There is still another week that is expected to be at least as intense as the first in this International Book Fair, which has already welcomed 83 great authors, including the latest Nobel Prize winner, from 22 countries. And it is expected to culminate in more than a thousand cultural activities, 440 literary conferences and debates, and above all 355 workshops dedicated to children, "the future of culture and civilisation", in the words of the executive president of the fair, which are intended to be conclusive.