The annual Eritrean Book Fair was held from March 19 to 28 this year at Expo grounds in Asmara. The Fair was launched under the theme ‘Reading: Investment in Soft Power’, highlighting the vitality of nurturing reading habit. Over 80 institutions, book shops, embassies, schools and individuals took part in the Fair. Shabait conducted an interview with Mr. Isaac Yosief, from the Coordinating Committee in the Book Fair regarding the activities and objectives of the Fair. Excerpts follow:
Can you tell us about the background of the Eritrean Book Fair?
Book Fair means book trading as well as exchanging of books and advice from experts. In our case, however it is different. Our primary aim is to nurture and promote reading habit as a culture in our society. In a book industry the work and development of writers, publishers, distributors and readers are intertwined, hence setting up a platform where all members can participate is important. After Eritrea became a member of African Publishers Network (APNET) in 2001 which promote indigenous publishing in Africa, the first Eritrean Book Fair was launched for the first time in 2002.This yearly Book Fair is organized by the Eritrean Publishers Association in collaboration with the Government and partners.
What is the main objective of the Book Fair?
The main goal is to cultivate an inherent reading habit in Eritrea especially among the young generation, and make due contribution towards developing a national publishing industry. Through various programs organized in the course of the annual Book Fairs, peoples have begun to realize the significance of reading.
Can you tell us about some of the activities conducted in the course of the Book Fair week?
Various exhibitions, workshops, children’s activities are conducted during the Fair. Students from different levels also compete in short stories, poetry, essays, debating presentation, general knowledge contests, drama and drawing, among others. Reading clubs, sharing of experience and fairly priced books are also part of the program. Every year publishers, printers, book shops, libraries and others display books and other reading material to the public.
How would you evaluate the past 8 Eritrean Book Fairs?
I can say that the outcome was encouraging. The number of visitors is growing steadily. Within the last 8 years of the Book Fair, the number has risen from 10,000 to 40,000 visitors. Besides, in the last Book Fair, about 5,000 books were sold at 20% discount, enabling readers to purchase a selection of books of their choice.
Any new feature or addition in this year’s 9th Book Fair?
About 500 books written by Eritrean authors in local languages are being showcased and a temporary library has been set up. In addition, students from all sub-zones were given the opportunity to participate in this year’s Fair. The Ministry of Education and the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students are working as main actors for the first time in Book Fair. Two Norwegian experts on copy rights also shared their experiences. Moreover, about 15,000 books were sold. The Fair this year received about 5,000 visitors per day.
What should we expect for 10th Eritrean Book Fair?
We would strive to present a better Book Fair next year and we hope people’s participation would be further promoted. Reading is a universal phenomenon which concerns every one equally regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion difference.