According to the latest report issued by the International Publishers Association, ‘IPA Global Book Fair Report 2017,’ book fairs play a vital role in societies, as public book fairs promote books and reading. In addition, their professional counterparts allow publishers, agents, distributors, and retailers to network and conduct business. They also draw media and public attention to the book industry and provide platforms for authors to meet readers. Book fairs are an event where many creative professions converge.
In an age when business is often executed remotely, book professionals still believe that book fairs have not lost their relevance. On the contrary, deals finalised at book fairs increase in terms of quality, and the human dimension of these exchanges become pledges of trust.
The report also highlighted that book fairs come in all shapes and sizes, attracting a variety of people and serving different purposes. Some fairs only allow trade attendees, some are designed for the general public, and others are hybrids, often separating their fair into professional and public days, or providing separate areas. In Frankfurt, for instance, the first three days are trade days, while the public attends on the final two days. In Geneva, there is a special area dedicated to conferences for book professionals.
The main function of professional book fairs, according to the report, is to be a market place for trade professionals. Book rights are bought and sold, and agents pitch new titles to publishers. In recent years, buying and selling rights has become the most dynamic activity of fairs.
People selling book rights at book fairs are located either on publishers’ stands or in a special rights centre, while buyers move around the fair from meeting to meeting. Book rights are offered via different models, either on an exclusive basis to the potential buyer, simultaneously to multiple buyers, or via an auction. In a sense, a book fair is a catalyst that propels rights deals towards completion.
Book fairs also serve an important educational purpose for book trade professionals, apprising them of key trends through seminars, conferences, panel discussions, presentations, and fellowship programmes. And book fairs offer a range of events designed to facilitate networking.
In addition to the economic challenges, the report shed light upon the fact that Egyptian publishing faces many challenges, including near inexistent distribution channels, relatively low literacy and reading rates, low purchasing power, piracy, and censorship. However, Egypt was the first country in the region to tackle digital publishing, with the launch of Kotobarabia.com, a platform for the digitisation and sale of Arabic e-books. It also offers services for public libraries and institutions, available on an annual license basis. Digitisation is a new opportunity to break down restrictions, such as affordability, borders, censorship and so on.