Revival of the book fair gives refuge to the post-lockdown spirit

The pressure to find out more is always present. Estimates suggest that the most avid bookworm will complete fewer than 5,000 works before dying, and only if he lives beyond 80 years. works contained in the ancient Egyptian library of Alexandria.

Surveys show that in recent years fewer and fewer people were up to the task. According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2017, only 53% of people in the United States, the world’s largest book market, said they had read at least one book for fun in the past year. , down nearly 10% since 1992. In 2018, Americans spent an average of less than 16 minutes per day reading in their leisure time, down six minutes since 2013. Publishers had good reason to be worry.

Reading was a popular activity during the isolation of the pandemic. AFP

Covid-19 has led to 100 million more children deprived of basic reading skills

Then came the pandemic, which continues to devastate industries around the world – but not the reading world. In 2020, printed works were sold at the highest level in a decade, according to BookScan, an organization that analyzes trends in the publishing industry. Ebooks and audio books have also seen an increase in purchases. Sales of fiction in the UK increased 16 percent. Earlier this year, Bloomsbury, the publishing house responsible for the Harry Potter novels, spoke of seeing a “ray of sunshine” after being forced to increase its profit estimates for the second time in 2021.

The downside to all of this reading, of course, is that it’s a symptom of the loneliness imposed by global lockdowns. As the books themselves flew off warehouse shelves and into virtual shopping carts, events that brought people together to celebrate them were canceled. However, as coronavirus restrictions ease, the social element of the pound may be rebounding, reinvigorated by the pandemic push in the market. The Abu Dhabi Book Fair, for example, takes place next week – a hybrid of digital and in-person events with strict security measures. It is one of the first to be held in person for publishers around the world since the start of the pandemic.

Along with discussions from some of the world’s best-known authors, there will be discussions of how the industry should adapt to its newfound success, perhaps even the relevance of physical book fairs in the post-world world. pandemic; after all, the industry saw this boom at a time when stores were closed, book fairs canceled and the industry moved online.

But despite good sales, it’s too early to say the pandemic has only been positive for the industry. The UN estimates that Covid-19 has led to a shocking shock of an additional 100 million children lacking basic reading skills. No publisher should rejoice if the education of its future market is in jeopardy. Industry must play its part in helping young readers to catch up.

Book fairs and other in-person experiences can be part of the solution. The Abu Dhabi event has a space dedicated to educational activities, with children able to learn from a global mix of authors and illustrators. Being immersed in such a physical environment is one way to get children’s literacy back on track.

And book fairs will still have a lot to offer experienced readers. The many events and conversations at literary gatherings show us what is happening in the industry and among other enthusiasts, knowledge that helps us make informed decisions about the books we take home. Pandemic or no pandemic, we have to be selective if we can only read a few thousand works in our life.


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