In Algeria the 24th Algiers International Book Fair gets underway at end October, running parallel with the Sharjah International Book Fair in the UAE.

While Sharjah is a major international event (all the more so this year as it is also UNESCO World Book Capital) making every effort to attract a global audience, the Algiers event is very much Arabic and French, and comparatively insular, focusing on the Arab markets.

This year 1030 publishing houses are participating, with 298 from Algeria, 323 from other Arab countries and 409 from the rest of the world, with 34 countries represented. Senegal is Guest of Honour.

Algeria will be represented by 298 publishing houses. The Arab countries mark their presence with 323 publishers, against 409 from the rest of the world. “The book, a continent” is the slogan chosen this year at SILA.

In 2018 the Algiers event attracted 2.3 million visitors, according to the SILA (from the French Salon du Livre International d’Alger) website (a revised figure on the 2.2 million reported in the media at end 2018).

At a pre-event press conference on Saturday (Oct. 19) SILA Commissioner Mohamed Iguerb told a press conference at the El Hama National Library in Algiers,

Senegal’s participation as a guest of honor coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Pan African Cultural Festival (Panaf), which will be celebrated this year, in the presence of Algerian and African men of letters and historians who will discuss themes related to relations African languages, literature and thought in Africa. The first Panaf was organized in Algeria in 1969, the second in 2009.

Algerian novelists Waciny Laredj, Smail Yabrir and Samir Kacimi, Senegalese poet Hamidou Sall, Jordanian writer Ibrahim Nasrallah, American activist Elaine Mokhtefi, and French historian Olivier Le Cour Grand-Maison are among the guests, but this year there will be a focus on young writers.

Iguerb said,

It’s a priority. We want to make young authors better known to the Algerian public. The opportunity will be given to young writers to shine, especially the winners of literary awards Assia Djebbar, Ali Maachi, Yasmina Mechakra and Mohamed Dib.

This year Algeria Post, the Algerian postal service, has issued a new stamp to mark SILA as the country’s most important cultural event.

With a population of 42.6 million Algeria is a potential book market on par with Spain (46.4 million).

Internet penetration is only at 59.6%, but that’s still 25.2 million people online – 8 million more than the Netherlands and more than twice as many as Sweden, making Algeria a potentially exciting digital books market.

Algeria has two ebook stores operated by Algérie Télécom. One is in French – Fimaktabati – and one in Arabic – Nooonbooks.

For those still unconvinced Algeria is an exciting book market, check out this TNPS post from 2018 on Algerian reading habits.