The International Booksellers Conference 2023 in Sharjah facilitates the global ecosystem of books
The second annual International Booksellers Conference was held in Sharjah (1-2 May 2023), with over 160 Booksellers and Publishers. The two-day interactive event organised by the Sharjah Book Authority with the leadership of Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman, Mansour Al Hasani, Director, curated by Emma House & Kuo-Yu Liang engaged the audience with dynamic keynote speeches, roundtable workshops and publisher pitches. It provided an opportunity to learn, share and understand the global ecosystem.
Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman, Sharjah Book Authority welcomed the delegates and emphasised the need to deal with the challenges to provide solutions to work together in order to transform problems to opportunities. With 18 expert led workshops on different topics like – Data in the Book Industry, Building a Community, Working with Publishers, The 4 C’s of Book shop design and also Arabic language sessions, he said that the programme highlights their commitment towards cultural diversity and inclusivity. Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder & CEO, Kalimat Group, in her keynote address, said that collaborations are critical more than ever now, in a sustainable manner one must produce and distribute books. She also said that innovation was important to improve the experience of the reader.
Best time in publishing
Markus Dohle, former CEO, Penguin Random House, in conversation with Porter Anderson, Editor-in- Chief, Publishing Perspectives mentioned that this was the best time to be in publishing as global revenues are growing, people are being innovative and adopting different models. He highlighted that there is healthy co- existence between physical book (80%) and digital (20 %), over time print has prevailed, and there is growth via ecommerce. He mentioned entry of the young generation into book ecosystem along with rising growth of audio books. He was very optimistic and happy to see an encouraging comeback of physical retail landscape. Porter highlighted Bookselling as a bridge between the publisher and the consumer and it was important to understand local v/s global. Markus emphasised the need to have a diverse literary landscape in a bookstore and to establish an efficient supply chain. He opined that importance to local culture is given and the distribution challenges in certain parts of the world to be dealt with. He mentioned that ecommerce has encouraged investment in the supply chain and one should establish a very direct supply chain in order to make it efficient and beneficial, which is unique for each country and customer. They discussed the importance of reading from paper and its impact on empathy and human values and the vision of Ruler of Sharjah to take the society to the next level. “We are an industry for Society”, shared Porter.
Steve Jones, Kinokuniya UAE, shared the five Ps of retail and the importance of logistics. In his 30 years of experience in bookselling, he believes that one needs to enhance the book experience in respective regions and work together to make the bookselling world bigger. He shared a number of innovative practices which they have implemented.
Ajay Mago, Publisher, Om Books International, India in his roundtable workshop – The 4 c’s of Bookshop design and marketing, highlighted the importance of Convenience, Comfort, Content, Community at a bookstore. He shared the growth of book signing events, pop-up book fest, innovative ways of review which the reader can submit, social media – some practices which are being done by his book stores which attract, engage and retain his readers to his stores.
Seon Oh, Manga Books and Café, Auckland shared how people come back to his store and were curious of what’s new. Ed Nawotka, Publishers Weekly, in his workshop Innovations in Bookselling, discussed how social media helps to create a story, do things differently and ways people can remember an experience. Vikrant Mathur, Executive Director, Nielsen Book, India discussed the right usage of ISBN, how metadata helps to enhance the discoverability of books and research on book sales. Lola Shoneyin, Ouida Books, Nigeria talked about Building a Community and they keep creatively working towards this with Open Mic’s forums, poetry & story telling sessions with a host of activities being done continuously. Amber Harrison, CEO, Folde Dorset, a nature focussed independent bookshop, spoke about sustainability and the SDG’s and how booksellers and publishers could do their work for the same with small practises which go a long way.
Cyrus Kheradi, Senior Vice President, International Sales and Marketing, Penguin random House, discussed with retailers from India their concerns on logistics, distributions, building communities, scale and scope of book selling, competition and margins.
Learning and collaborations
The event witnessed exchange of number of innovative ideas, Sandeep Gulia, WH Smith, India felt the exchange of ideas was good. He shared that the buying behaviour of customer is impulsive at airports and the books shown in the front of the store get picked up very easily. Rajeev Dhar Joshi thought the small group learning was engaging, he felt that data is very important and also liked interacting with people from different parts of the world.
Rohit Jerajani, Express Book Service, Pune was excited about his foray into events with authors Internationally. Vidya Mani, Funky Rainbow said that they are building a reading community and after the first conference was happy to engage with her readers with social media. Ange MBelle, who distributes books in Africa, shared the challenges in Africa as bookstores are less and felt that the conference was important as one can understand global trends. Shared Agnes Debiage that she had 20 plus years of book selling in Egypt and supports booksellers in Africa. She felt networking is very important and there is a need for book in English in French speaking countries in Africa.
Robert Morgan, Bookland Press, Canada, shared his excitement as these events were helping him in collaborations in English, French and Arabic. He has already been working with Publishers who he had met in Sharjah earlier and was very happy to have signed a contract at the event and is looking forward to more collaborations in the coming years.