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Cairo International Book Fair 2023 Props Up Arab Publishers

The sprawling capital city of Egypt is hosting the 54th edition of the highly anticipated Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) 2023. The two-week long exhibition which runs until 6 February, 2023, at the Egypt International Exhibition Center, is brought in conjunction by the Arab Publishers Association and the Egyptian Publishers Union.

The book fair was inaugurated by Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on behalf of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, with Jordan participating as the guest of honour nation. The inaugural ceremony also featured Jordan’s Minister of Culture Haifa Najjar and the Kingdom’s Ambassador to Cairo Amjad Adaleh, besides a host of representatives from both countries.

Considered the oldest book fair in the Arab world, over a thousand publishing houses from 53 countries are participating in this year’s edition with a bewildering range of cultural events and recreational activities that will be held on the sidelines.

Going by the slogan “Egypt’s Identity… Culture and the Question of the Future”, new additions have been included in the fair. Leading Egyptian poet, lyricist, playwright, and cartoonist Salah Jahin is being posthumously honoured for being a multi-talented writer and one who is adored and remembered for his poetry.

Cairo International Book Fair

Beyond the exhibitions, new features have been included in this year’s edition to give visitors a seamless experience. A new app gives users access to the book fair’s extensive library as well as the cultural events. A cool feature of the app is a VR video of Abu Kharbush, Sultan of the Monkeys, a children’s story by Kamel Kilani, a pioneer of Arabic children’s literature.

The international book fair, however, is offering more than just books as it is a window to the crisis faced by the global printing and publishing industry. Many of the participating publishing houses spoke in cohesion about the high cost of books, particularly the foreign ones, which have gone up by 75% compared to last year’s prices.

Egypt’s publishing industry is reeling under the crushing impact of the pandemic, disruptions in global supply chains, the continuing war in Ukraine, and the soaring energy and raw material costs, especially paper, and the weakening of the Egyptian pound against the dollar that has impacted imports from abroad.

President of the Arab Publishers Association Mohamed Rashad says that there are several reasons besides the pandemic that has not made books the number one priority in the region. “Firstly reading has not caught on as a popular habit in the Arab world. Other factors include the high advertising rates in the broadcast and print media in addition to the high shipping costs. All this resulted in a decrease in the sales of books by 75% as compared to 2019. The production of new books also declined by 50% to 75%, with the situation worsening after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in paper prices escalating nearly three times,” explains Rashad.

To tide over the problems faced by the Arab publishing community, the Cairo book fair is offering huge discounts ranging from 25% to 60% to encourage sales and generate revenue. Other benefits offered by the organizing committee to Arab publishers include cutting subscription prices, reduction in the percentage of increase in booth rentals from 12.5% to 5% on last year’s rates, and an allocation of a 45 sq m pavilion for 12 emerging publishing houses under the aegis of Egyptian Publishers Union to encourage their participation in such a major exhibition.

CIBF Director Islam Bayoumi revealed that the book fair was “a sellout, with 1047 exhibitors, including 340 Arab publishers, from 53 countries.” Besides this, the two conferences discussing topics including copyright and translation and exchange of translation rights, an array of cultural activities, and special seminars in honour of Jordan are the other highlights of the Cairo book fair.

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