Sharjah wasn’t the biggest book fair by visitors this year – that honour went to Madrid – but it was another powerful demonstration of the Arab literary renaissance and another nail in the coffin of the widely held belief that “Arabs don’t read”.
Two million booklovers at one event over twelve days. A footfall number almost impossible to conjure up for most western publishing professionals used to books fair where a turnout of 300,000 is considered an achievement, and where 25,000-50,000 is something to be celebrated.
It was just three weeks ago Frankfurt concluded with total visitors at 180,000, almost of which – 87,000 – were non-trade.
Sharjah has long led the digital battle cry in Arab publishing, and this year reports 19 million users of Sharjah social media accounts amounting to 38 million impressions on top of the 78 million impressions for the #SIBF22 hashtag.
Frustratingly, local internet continues to deprive me of much-needed online time to delve further into this topic, but regular TNPS readers will of course know million, two million and even higher million-visitor book fairs are quite commonplace outside the western publishing bubble, and that Sharjah’s 2.17 million visitors is nothing unusual, nor is it a record for Sharjah or for the Arab markets. The Algiers International Book Fair often clocks a similar count, while Egypt’s Cairo International Book Fair has in the past far exceeded this count for Sharjah.
Gulf News is among many regional news journals carrying the full details of the Sharjah concluding numbers.
As a final note, Madrid was this year’s largest book fair by visitor numbers, with 3 million people attending, but should be considered a notable outlier in the Euro-Americas book fair arena.