The ten day Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) wound up yesterday (Saturday) and literally as I was writing this post today, Sunday, the official numbers rolled in.
2.38 million visitors attended the event in the United Arab Emirates, and books to the value of $56 million were sold.

As many commentators are saying, Sharjah is not just a book fair but also an international literary festival.
India’s The Hindu reports,

With the theme ‘A World in My Book’, the event featured 1,650 publishing houses from 60 countries. About 130 of the publishing houses were from India. More than 1.5 million books in different languages were made available at the sprawling venue.

The SIBF also marked the official opening of the world’s first publishing free-zone, the Sharjah Publishing City. As The Hindu notes, the Sharja Publishing City is expected to

become a destination for publishers, with a window to the global books market. As it grows, it is slated to be home to more than 500 publishing companies from around the world, with a printing capacity of a million books a day. It will provide more than 15 million books in multiple languages through institutions and publishing houses that operate from the facility.”

The Hindu also covered the SIBF’s focus on children and children’s books.

Amid a babel of tongues, playful expatriate children flitted around, occasionally taking a giggling peek at the displayed tomes. The fair featured a number of child-friendly events, ranging from ‘Young Engineers in the Making’ to a ‘storytelling puppet’ workshop, to a watercolour art workshop and a comics exhibition. The youngest author to be featured was nine-year-old Justina Jibin from India, who presented her book, My Imaginary World, a sprightly collection of poems and stories.

Justina Jibin, the youngest published author at Sharjah. Image: Gulf News

In fact the nine year old lives in Dubai, and as the Khaleej Times reported last week, Justina intends to give to charity all the proceeds from her book.
Gulf Today, reporting earlier on the final day of Sharjah, said,

It was nothing less than a breath of fresh air. The presence of acclaimed writers, poets, actors, chefs, illustrators, social media personalities as well as eminent film stars transformed the event from being a mere book fair into a complete cultural event…The wide selection of books and record sales was indeed a good sign. It proved that people’s interest in the printed word has not gone down despite growing popularity of electronic gadgets and social media fixation. In fact, it shows that there is a need to organise this fair more frequently.

Gulf Today interviewed visitors from many countries. This was typical:

Lamar Basem and her brother Mohammad Basem, visitors from Syria, liked the fair for its vast collection, offering titles of different genre. “It offered a wide choice, thus I bought books of different nature. Some adventure stories, a few books on geography and a few titles of ‘Yawmiat Mashaghib’ series,” she said.

A reminder that, as I explored in a recent post in The New Publishing Standard challenging the assertion “Arabs don’t read,” the reality is that the books simply aren’t available – except at book fairs like Sharjah.

Arabs don’t read, and other nonsense. Why the MENA market is an exciting prospect


Sharjah Book Fair opens today. 1.5 million books. More than 2.3 million visitors expected