As the biggest territorial Middle East book event (Cairo attracts more visitors but is in North Africa) the annual Sharjah International Book Fair has been at the centre of speculation as the Arab book fair calendar was torn to shreds by the coronavirus. Would it go ahead? Could it go ahead?
It seems the answer to both of those questions is yes, but with whatever restrictions are deemed necessary nearer the day.
In 2019 the UAE’s Sharjah event attracted 2.5 million visitors –
but with social distancing rules likely, and many international players unlikely to risk attending (Penguin Random House has just announced it has cancelled all in-person book fairs for the remainder of 2020) it’s anyone’s guess how many visitors will turn out, or even how many exhibitors will turn out, although the event organisers are reporting all exhibition space has been sold.
Sharjah Book Authority chairman Ahmed Al Ameri said in a statement:
It is heartening to receive such strong industry support even in these challenging times, which drives us to host an exceptional edition this year to continue benefiting both the reader as well as local, regional and global publishing markets.
We are committed to employing the highest international health and safety standards on the exhibition site, and will have detailed preventative protocols in place to ensure the safety of participants and visitors during the book fair.
This year, the fair will shine a strong spotlight on ways publishers can collaborate to successfully navigate the challenges posed to their businesses, complete projects stalled due to Covid-19, and continue operating profitably in the fast-changing market landscape.
The Frankfurt Book Fair has also committed to proceeding this year, albeit with a hybrid in-person and digital format, but Sharjah has yet to say if it will go to Germany this year.