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Books

CIBF official organizer: Cairo International Book Fair reflects Egypt’s public life

Sunday 11/February/2018 - 10:30 AM
Sada El Balad

The head of the General Egyptian Book Organization and the CIBF official organizer Dr. Haitham Al-Haj stated that the Cairo International Book Fair represents a political and social event before being a "cultural"، pointing out that the children's pavilion at the book fair brought the Egyptian family together inside the book fair.

In an interview with “Sada el Balad” website، Haitham Al-Haj revealed the start of preparations two months ago for the Golden Jubilee for the coming edition.

The transfer of the exhibition next year to the Fifth Assembly is only an idea that has not yet reached the decision stage، calling for support of the Family Library project، added.

Many believe that Cairo International Book Fair has witnessed great success this year، what is the reason for this success in your opinion?
I think all the staff of the General Egyptian Book Organization represent the reason for the success of the 49th edition of the Cairo International Book Fair، starting with the printing press employees، followed by the Organization’s employees، and the volunteers، in addition to the cultural committees and the book fair’s committees، all of them made a great effort to produce the aesthetic image seen by everyone at the Cairo International Book Fair.

What does the Cairo International Book Fair represent to the intellectuals and the ordinary citizen in your opinion?
The book fair represents a political and social event before it can be a cultural event and the book fair was able to prove it as an integral part of social and political life in Egypt.

How does the book fair represent a political and social event before it is culturally?
I think it represents a political event first because it is an important indicator of Egypt’s stability and security as a country and society، and the turnout indicates that there is a positive cultural indicator، and in 2015، when the terrorist group Muslim Brotherhood reported that the book fair was not safe، we received visitors that year good international reactions، and about 2.5 million visitors to the book fair، and completely cancel the idea that Egypt was not safe at that time، it is also a social event، as a result of the strong turnout from the Egyptian family for the book fair this year.

What is the purpose of choosing is "Soft Power: How?” slogan for the book fair this year?
We note that for the first time the logo of the Cairo International Book Fair is a question، because we felt that we are at a point where we must find an answer to this question، where we arrive at a vision on how Egypt can regain its soft power in a way that benefits and drives the Egyptian negotiating wheel in various fields، for the soft power is the motivation through which we export societal values abroad، and represents a cultural bridge reflected by the good diplomacy to negotiate with foreign countries.

Was there enough diversity in the seminars to express this slogan?
Indeed، there has been a great diversity of seminars، participants and various specialization، which has provided many answers to the mechanisms through which Egypt can achieve soft power in various fields.

Does the book fair present the visions that have been put forward by the concerned authorities to determine the future vision?
We already have a group of staff the organization members who provide summaries of what was discussed in the book fair، and it is collected in a volume entitled "How did the thinkers see the mechanisms of supporting Egyptian soft power."

Do you expect the book fair to have turnout as soon as it is transferred to the 5th assembly?
In principle، we have not yet decided to move the next year's Cairo International Book Fair to the fifth assembly. Rather، it is only proposals that are under consideration، and in the end، we will do the best for the book fair، for the publisher، and for the visitor.

What do you think about the idea of moving the book fair to the fifth assembly?
I have not yet seen the proposed land to move the book fair to the fifth assembly and to be able to give my opinion on the idea of moving the book fair، I need to see the land there، know the possibilities it offers to the publisher، and the prices that are raised، whether it affects the rent of the pavilions or not، and other questions that must be answered first before forming my opinion on the idea.

What about the book sales this year?
By the end of the book fair، the General Egyptian Book Organization sales exceeded a quarter of a million copies، a 20% rise from last year's sales، and the historical and political pavilions were the most pavilions take interest in by the readers، and "Al-Fitna Al-Kubra” is the best-selling book.

How did the organization overcome the rising paper prices crisis and offered books at good prices suitable for everyone?
We have made a mixture between the paper stored inside the organization and the new paper، in addition to the fact that the organization does not aim for profit، and therefore we offered books at the same cost price، all these factors contributed to the decline in the prices of General Egyptian Book Organization books، an increase of only 15% over the previous year and therefore acceptable to the readers.

How do you evaluate the Family Library project now?
I think that the Family Library project needs more than the support given to it. The last budget for the project was in 2010، which amounted 22 million pounds، and currently، only 7 million pounds are being paid from the organization's budget.

What do we need for the return of the family library project to its splendor?
We need the support of all organizations and ministries for the Family Library Project again so that the project flourishes as it was before.

Do we suffer from multiple publications crisis within the Ministry of Culture?
Dr. Inas Abdel-Dayem، Minister of Culture، has a clear vision to face the problems that the ministry suffers، where her first instructions to all organization were outlining terms of reference.

You have made a statement about the profits of electronic publishing، which exceeds the paper publication fold، and asked for an Arabic electronic publishing umbrella، what mechanisms to achieve this umbrella?
E-publishing profits exceeds threefold the normal publishing because the cost of creating a book is much less than the paper publication، in addition to what paper book requires of a large cost to transfer it from one place to another، but e-publishing in the Arab world are only small projects so far، and we need a large umbrella، I suggest for the Arab League to be it، through which we can have a large publishing market embracing all those interested in Arab publishing.

But e-publishing makes piracy easy?
On the contrary، the paper book is more of subjected to piracy than the e-mail، however، the existence of an e-publishing umbrella provides the necessary technology and quality to protect the e-book from piracy، for e-publishing has many positive aspects that can be worked on، provided we unite.

This year a children's pavilion was set up inside the Book Fair، within a child's book fair، how was this experience useful for this year's book fair?
I consider the establishment of a book fair for the children inside the book fair this year is one of the most important additions of the book fair، it is enough that we have been able to re-establish the idea of a book fair for the child again، even if not in a separate place and time، this was an important reason for the entire family to gather inside the book fair، in addition to attracting children to interactive activities within the children's pavilion through drawing workshops and teaching popular games to pull our children to the Egyptian identity away from electronic games.

Some criticized the organization for setting up 150 events for Al-Azhar at the Cairo International Book Fair، what is your comment?
Al-Azhar is the one who rented his land، and planned its activities within، and in my personal opinion is that Al-Azhar is one of Egypt's most important soft powers through its foreign educational missions،and delegations that come from abroad to learn within Al-Azhar، and its presence in the book fair discusses soft power، which is a basic existence for it، if Al-Azhar did not have 150 activities inside its pavilion، we would have host it within the book fair's activities، to establish the same number.

What are the things you have not been able to achieve this year at the Book Fair and hoping to achieve next year?
I think that we need to strengthen the hygiene inside the book fair and establish a strong system for it، and I think that logistically it is possible to take a number of measures to make the book fair's hygiene stronger، in addition to controlling the entrance process from the doors of the book fair because of the spread of street vendors in the book fair، and we do not know how they entered till now، but the police interceptor helped us get them out.

What about the number of visitors during this edition?
The number of visitors reached 4.5 million visitors، and I think that it exceeded this number today by the end of the book fair.

What about your readiness for the next edition especially as it represents a golden jubilee for the Book Fair in its 50th edition?
We started planning and preparing for the next edition two months ago، and I think we are preparing it well enough to fit for golden jubilee celebration of Cairo International Book Fair.

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