The Sharjah International Book Fair is the next major literary event in the UAE to adopt a hybrid model during the coronavirus pandemic.
Running from Wednesday, November 4, to Saturday, November 14, one of the world's biggest book gatherings will open its doors and its website for 11 days of discussions and sales.
When it comes to the fair's cultural programme, events such as panel discussions will take place online.
Regional and international publishers will be at the Sharjah Expo Centre selling books at stalls spread across the vast site.
Safety measures will be in place to ensure social distancing rules are followed, in addition to various entry and exit points and staggered entry times for visiting groups.
With The World Reads from Sharjah as this year’s theme, Sharjah Book Authority chairman Ahmed Al Ameri said the decision to press ahead with the fair is to show support to a publishing industry battered by the pandemic.
"Sharjah International Book Fair is a major event on the global publishing industry calendar, and our decision to host an exceptional edition this year, despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, is aimed at benefiting readers as well as local, regional and global publishing markets," he said.
“We believe that cultural activities must not stop, even in challenging circumstances, as enriching people’s lives through reading, literacy and knowledge is a key driver for social development and prosperity.”
With the full programme to be released later this month, Al Ameri said plans are under way to ensure the virtual sessions run smoothly. He said they will use “the latest technologies in visual communication to successfully host all its virtual events, activities and discussions”.
Frankfurt Book Fair also goes online
The Sharjah International Book Fair is not the only book fair taking the digital leap. This week, the world's biggest, The Frankfurt Book Fair, held in the German city, is also mixing it up with a largely digital programme of streamed sessions and restricted events on site.
Running from Wednesday to Sunday, October 14 to 18, there will be 70 hours of online programming for the event. Key authors appearing on digital platforms include Man Booker Prize winners Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
As the vice president of the International Publishers Association and founder of children's book publisher Kalimat Group, Sharjah's Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi will also appear on the eve of the festival, on Tuesday, October 13, in an online panel session on copyright in the publishing industry.
In announcing the programme earlier in the year, fair director Juergen Boos said there was no question of the event not going ahead.
“It is more important than ever that the Frankfurter Buchmesse takes place,” he said. “We are putting a spotlight on our authors, industry and trends. Because of the pandemic, Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 will be a special edition – an on-site programme combined with a forward-looking digital offer.”
More information on the Sharjah International Book Fair is available at www.sibf.com; more information on the Frankfurt Book Fair is available at www.buchmesse.de/en