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More than 530 publishing professionals and agents, and 35 speakers will take part in the 11th Publishers Conference to be held, in partnership with the International Publishing Association (IPA), at the Expo Centre Sharjah from October 31 – November 2, the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) has announced.

To be held ahead of the official opening of the milestone 40th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on November 3, the three-day event will host eight panel discussions on the key issues and challenges facing the publishing sector in the region and around the world. The conference provides participants with a platform to discuss book sales, potential agreements, translations, as well as copyrights and distribution rights.

A highlight of this edition of the conference will be a keynote address by Bodour Al Qasimi, President, International Publishers Association (IPA), on the first day where she will be recounting the global organisation’s success and excellence over the past 125 years in supporting and promoting the industry and its stakeholders worldwide, and share IPA’s future plans.

A key session on the application process for the US$300,000 SIBF Translation Grant, will be a highlight of the inaugural day proceedings. It will be available exclusively to the conference’s participants.

The hugely popular ‘Matchmaking’ sessions will be held on all three days of the conference for the convenience of publishers and industry professionals to discuss buying and selling of rights and strike new deals, especially in the Arab market.

Mansour Al Hassani, Head of Sales, SBA, and General Coordinator of the Publishers Conference, said: “SBA organises the Publishers Conference based on its strategic vision to support and advance the publishing sector, and at the same time, further SIBF’s mission to connect publishers in the region and the world.”

He added: “Being the first-of-its-kind regional platform, this annual conference brings with it incredible opportunities for global industry players to connect, share experiences, buy and sell rights, and explore partnership opportunities. This edition has much to offer, being the largest professional gathering of industry professionals post-pandemic to discuss key transformations in the industry across functions like marketing, printing, shipping as well as customer needs and behaviour.”

Day 1 programme (October 31)

The SIBF Publishers Conference will begin with a welcome address by HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA. A discussion titled ‘Coming Together in Crisis: How the international sustainable publishing and industry resilience (Inspire) initiative is supporting industry recovery in unprecedented times’ will set the conference in motion. A distinguished panel of publishing professionals from around the world will discuss the ‘Inspire Charter’ and how the industry can ensure that the entire publishing ecosystem moves forward in coordination during times of crisis.

The second conference of the day, titled ‘Arab Publishing Landscape: Guidelines to the different Arabic world markets’, will hear from Arab publishers about how publishing is evolving in Arabic-speaking countries and how international publishers can contribute to their growth.

The Guest of Honour at SIBF 2021, Spain, will host a special session in the afternoon to shed light on the Spanish publishing industry. The day’s activities will close with the session on the SIBF Translation Grant.

Day 2 programme (November 1)

‘The Independent Publishing Boom: Generating book sales’ will be the first session on Day 2 of the Publishers Conference. Experts will speak about how independent publishers rose up to the challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, devising new ways of reaching the reader and contributing to a vital spike in book sales, and the lessons mainstream publishers could draw from their experience.

The second session of the day, titled ‘Decolonising Our Stories: The growing Influence of African authors’, will discuss how cultural globalisation is presenting a unique opportunity for African authors to capitalise on the increasing global demand for more diverse voices and narratives while creating a space for indigenous storytelling.

Day 3 programme (November 2)

The educational publishing industry will be the focus of the first discussion on the concluding day of the conference. Titled ‘Evolving Educational Content: The role of publishers in the age of digital learning’, the session will debate on the opportunities presented by the pandemic and the pros and cons of digital learning.

The second session, ‘Surfacing African Publishing Innovations: The African Publishing Innovation Fund’, will throw light on the African Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF), created by a partnership between Dubai Cares and IPA in 2019. The panel will discuss how APIF is helping to solve systemic publishing challenges by creating opportunities for future publishing innovation, and how it can support disruptive innovation in emerging publishing markets.