Sharjah book fair making waves, says publisher

SHARJAH — The Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) has turned into a unique melting pot of small and huge publishing houses as well as foreign and local authors and book lovers.

By Lily B. Libo-on

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Published: Fri 29 Oct 2010, 12:03 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:36 PM

This was the impression of Peter Weidhaas, an international publisher and expert in organising book fairs across the globe, who told Khaleej Times that the ongoing fair has created waves among the literary world with the rare involvement of the government and the royal family. Weidhaas, a German book lover and writer, said the book fair in Sharjah was among the rarest as most others focus on the business gains, not on the cultural impact of the event. “I have been organising international book fairs for 32 years across major cities in the world. Governments are not so much involved in the cultural side of the book fair. But, in this emirate, the royal family is not only of book lovers but also is involved in publishing books about their lives and their people.”

“The Shaikh is a man of books and is promoting them positively in this place. You cannot find this in many places. But, you find many of them in business.” Visiting Sharjah and the UAE for the first time, Weidhaas is surprised to find both big and small publishing houses and unknown and popular authors as he went around the exhibit hall.

He said the book fair is a great meeting ground for publishers, writers and translators from different cultures and backgrounds. “I am very impressed. Finding publishers in the book fair, who are willing to translate, publish and distribute the translated books, is a bonus,” he said.

An author of books which have been translated into different languages across the world, Weidhaas found translation a costly affair. He has some of his books translated into Chinese, Russian, Greek, Spanish and Latin American languages. “Lately, I paid US$40,000 (Dh146,000) for the translation of my two books. But here, an author can easily find publishers willing to pay for translation, publication and distribution of books as there are too many.”

The 29th SIBF, which has involved into one of the most important exhibitions in GCC and the Middle East, has attracted the participation of 789 publishing houses — 117 local, 387 from other Arab countries and 53 from western and other countries — showcasing 200,000 book titles.

Weidhaas is the Chairman of the Conference of International Book Fairs, which discusses issues of expanding and promoting to the public the value and the importance of books in developing functional reading.

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