The crowds seen in the first few days of the Riyadh International Book Fair were remarkable, inspiring hope for the future of books, with publishing having been hit, like many other sectors, by the coronavirus pandemic for almost two years.
Indeed, publishing was among the sectors most negatively affected by the pandemic. Some institutions were forced to let employees go and stop printing new material.
Over 60,000 visitors have flocked to the Riyadh International Book Fair since its opening last week.
Saad Ibrahim, the head of marketing at an Egyptian publishing house, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the crisis had been difficult and unprecedented because book fairs are the sector’s lifeblood. This year’s fair in Riyadh, he added, will inspire hope in the return to normality and the market’s revitalization.
Praising the efficacy of the procedures followed under these circumstances, he believes the fair’s success will present a model that others will follow, allowing the sector and the whole world to emerge from this critical phase.
With 36,000 square meters of exhibition wings, this year’s fair was the largest in Saudi history. Over 1,000 publishing houses from over 30 countries took part.
The exhibition was designed to accommodate 15,000 visitors at once, in what was a bet on the people’s keenness to rekindle their relationships with books. It is the first edition to be held under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and to be organized by the Literature, Publishing and Translation Commission.
On the sidelines of the exhibition, the Commission has organized the Publishers Conference 2021, which will run from October 4 - 5.
The first conference of its kind in Saudi Arabia, it seeks to reshape the future of the Arab publishing industry and includes workshops presented by major publishers and leaders within the book industry.