Lessons from Sharjah

by Yani Kurniawan


Indonesia had just repeated its participation at Publishers’ Conference in Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) 2019. It is one of the most distinguished programs of the festival that reached its ninth year in 2019. It provides space for professionals from publishing companies all over the world to meet, establish content rights transaction, and share ideas through series of presentations delivered from qualified speakers from publishing industry background all around the world. 

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, head of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), launched the 9th Publishers’ Conference by underlining the main objective of SIBF programs. It aims at reviewing the publishing industry comprehensively from various points of view: publisher, reader, writer, and distributor. “In Sharjah, we are working at various levels to promote publishing industry based on the suggestions regarding the previous event. Our success is indicated by the number of applications for 2018 SIBF Translation Grant. We received 2,900 applications last year and we have granted the translation fund for 1,200 title for the past several years. In addition, 3,000 appointments were made in 2018 Publisher Conference with the number of participants more than 400 people,” said Al Ameri.

Before concluding his speech, Al Ameri added: “We meet here to discuss the future of publishing and book industry. We learn together to find a strategy to promote the global book industry. We work hard to widen the realm of publishing which will open up more market for publisher by keeping in mind the development of new technology.”

Following the opening, the event is continued with a discussion panel moderated by Emad Eldeen Elakehal from Ibiidi Publishing, England. “Global Publishing: What’s Next for This Growing Industry?” panel presented Dominque Raccah, founder and CEO of Sourcebooks (United States of America); Elliot Agyare, president of Ghana Book Publishers Association and CEO of Smartline Publishing (Ghana); Jade Robertson, International Publishing Director; Austin Macauley Publishers (England); and Peter Dowling, president of Immediate Past, Publishers Association of New Zealand, and Oratia Books (New Zealand).

In the second day, “Publishers’ Digital Strategy: New Ways of Storytelling” panel discussed the anticipation of publishing trend in the future. Porter Anderson moderated the discussion of several key issues concerning the development of audiobooks, e-books, subscriptions, and digital trends in publishing world. He introduced a brand-new term: “format agnostic” to refer to the future publishing trend in which content will no longer developed from books only, but also from other formats. The panel presented Ama Dadson, founder dan CEO of AkooBooks Audio (Ghana); Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO HarperCollins (India); Chiki Sarkar, Publisher and Founder of Juggernaut Books (India), and Mohamed Shawkey Mohamed Ghanem – Bookjuice Publishing (Egypt).

Next, the president of IPA, Hugo Setzer, appointed as the first speaker, together with Tariq Al Gurg, CEO Dubai Cares and Samuel Kolawole, head of The African Publishers Network; for the first discussion panel of the third-day event. The second panel, “Catalyzing Publishing Innovation: Old Problems, New Solutions” with Lawrence Njagi, Head ofKenya Publishers Association, as moderator. It is followed by “Connecting African Publishing Ecosystems,” withNigerian Publishers Association president, Gbadega Adedapo, as the moderator. The last panel, “Transforming African Libraries” moderated by Brian Wafawarowa, director of Leaf Publishing and Research Services, and head of IPA’s Inclusive Publishing and Literacy committee (South Africa). 

Besides attending those panels, the Indonesian delegations also participated in hundreds appointment to build cooperation with abroad publishers to sell the rights of Indonesian books. Based on the report by two delegations from the National Book Committee, Thomas Nung Atasana and Yani Kurniawan, the number is quite promising. Atasana managed to sell 25 titles with at least ten abroad publishers showed interest to put into consideration some titles included in the catalogue. Meanwhile, Kurniawan, whom also the representative of Literasia Creative, sold nine titles to the publishers in Turkey and Pakistan. In addition, there were six titles gained the interests of the publishers in France, one children-book series with 50 titles by Egpytian publishers, and five young-adult books by Russian publisher. Meanwhile, Sartika Dian, the representative of Borobudur Agency, noted 26 titles sold, mostly by Egyptian publisher which has been showing great interest in publishing Indonesian content. 

We are convinced that the number will increase by the participation of Indonesian publishers in Publishers Conference, including Mizan, Noura Books, Penerbit Gorga, Gramedia, Bhuana Ilmu Populer, Gema Insani Press, Kesaint Blanc, and Zikrul Bestari Publisher. More titles sold and published aboard indicate the rise of intuition and knowledge on the potential and international publishing market among the Indonesian publishers. It is expected that Indonesian publishers will not only participate in international book events to sell book rights but also share the lesson they have obtained to increase the awareness of the other fellow publishers.