Bodour Al Qasimi opens the International Booksellers Conference

SHARJAH. 1st May 2023. Sheikha Bodour al Qasimi is the Founder, CEO and Immediate past President of International Publishers Association. She highlighted the environmental pressures, the material shortages, the hyper-inflation in energy costs and other business costs during the opening of Sharjah International Booksellers Conference. This pioneering event builds on the success of last year’s inaugural event.

The two-day Sharjah Book Conference is organized by the Sharjah book authority (SBA) and brings together prominent authors, booksellers, publishers from around the world.

Sheikha Al Qasimi said, “One trend which needs our immediate attention, is sustainability. Most importantly, the impact of the publishing industry on the environment. This is an opportunity to discuss the sustainability of the book industry and to propose initiatives that can radically alter the way we distribute and produce books. We also have the chance to be part and lead the change. Collaboration is essential because no single publisher, bookseller or stakeholder in our ecosystem can meet this challenge on their own.

The two-day conference, a first of its kind in the region and bringing together more than 400 distributors and booksellers from 69 different countries, is dedicated to enriching publishing. The conference aims to ignite groundbreaking discussions about the state of industry. It is an unrivaled platform for sharing expertise, knowledge and experiences that will redefine future of publishing and bookselling.

The opening day of the conference began with Sheikha Boudour Al Qasimi’s keynote speech, Ahmed Bin Rakkad Al Ameri (Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority) delivering an inspirational welcome and introduction, and then a keynote discussion featuring Markus Dohle, former CEO of Penguin Random House and Porter Anderson, of Publishing Perspectives.

Sheikha Al Qasimi stressed the importance of innovation and collaboration in the book business, as well as the need to address sustainability issues and the effects of the publishing industry on the environment. She also discussed the rising trend of artificial intelligence generating and its potential for bringing radical changes to how books are published and consumed.

She emphasized the importance of staying on top of trends and finding new ways to improve the industry. She also invited thought leaders from other sectors to assist the industry in seeing things differently. Sheikha Bodour, who stressed the importance of challenging biases to learn and grow, left the audience with a powerful and motivating message. She said, “I believe we are at an historic moment in our business and that through constant collaboration, our ability innovate and reimagine our sector will help turn these challenges into opportunities.”

Ahmed Al Amiri, in his speech opening the conference, highlighted the commitment made by the Emirate Sharjah towards supporting and promoting both the regional and global book industry thanks to the visionary direction and directives from H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi is the Supreme Council Member of Sharjah and its Ruler.

Al Amiri stressed the importance of the challenges that the publishing and creative industries face and how they could be turned into opportunities.

He encouraged the collaboration of publishers and distributors around the globe and stressed the importance effective communication among all industry stakeholders.

Al Amiri expressed his hopes for successful discussions and outcomes at the conference.

The Chairman went on to say, “We are aware of the importance of the booksellers’ role and the challenges that hinder the development of their businesses. As such, this Booksellers Conference is not only a forum for dialogue and discussions, but also an opportunity to present and discuss solutions, to implement and support these, and to transform successful experiences from this sector into lessons we can learn.”

Markus Dohle was the first Chief Executive of Penguin Random House. He participated in a conversation with Porter Anderson (editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives) entitled “The State of Global Publishing and Bookselling, as well as the Promise of Emerging Markets”. Dohle shared his thoughts on the current state of global bookselling and publishing. Dohle said, “The data show that the future is bright for both publishers and book sellers.

The two publishing giants discussed the importance of Sheikha Al Qasimi’s keynote speech and the impact the industry has on our world. Porter Anderson said, “We’re not just merchants of words and culture, we’re custodians for the future knowledge sharing, and the industry. It is up to us to make it a sustainable, responsible industry that benefits our readers, and the planet.”

Dohle identified 6 reasons why publishing and bookselling are on the rise. This is arguably the best period in the history of the industry. The global revenue of books shows growth every year. Second, distribution models are stable and profitable. Third, digital and traditional book formats coexist in a healthy way. Even with all the options available today, 80 percent of the book market still relies on physical copies. Dohle said that print has been the winner and is “life insurance” both for retailers and publishers. Fourth, due to the population growth and rising literacy rates, the audience addressable is increasing every year.

Dohle’s fifth point is that children and young people are the largest market for publishing and books. This is good news for the future.

Dohle also noted the growing popularity of audiobooks. He said that hearing stories is part of our DNA, and the audiobook format allows people to multitask. This makes it appealing to busy individuals.

Dohle concludes that, based on the data, the publishing and bookselling industries are thriving and offer many opportunities for success and growth. The future is bright, despite negative perceptions.

On the opening day of the conference, a number of workshops were held by experts from their respective fields.

The event offered a wide range of engaging and informative sessions, including data on the book industry, sustainability, the SDGs and consumer book buying habits, social media campaigns that work, bookshop design, and marketing.

Workshops are a great way for participants to learn, ask questions and exchange ideas with experts. The workshops provide attendees with the opportunity to build connections and network with professionals from the industry.

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