The 54th session of the Cairo International Book Fair kicks off today, Wednesday, amid anticipation from reading enthusiasts and publishers alike, due to the high prices of books, some of which have doubled in price compared to last year.
Salim Salah, 33, who works as an accountant in a company and used to go to the exhibition annually since he was ten years old, says, “I searched for the prices of some newly released books and I intended to buy them during the exhibition, but I was surprised by the imaginary prices, one of which I found.” Its price is 270 pounds (about 9 dollars), while the price of the book used to range between 70 and 80 pounds (a dollar equals about 30 pounds), and sometimes it reaches 100 or 120 pounds at most.”
He added, “I love novels and historical books, but acquiring everything I want requires a budget that may reach thousands of pounds, and my budget does not exceed a thousand pounds under the current circumstances because life is a priority, so I plan more than one tour of the exhibition before deciding to buy.”
“Even taking my children to the exhibition will be a problem because I used to buy them coloring books and stories every year, and I don’t know if the budget will allow them to meet their requests or not,” he added.
The official exchange rate of the Egyptian pound finally moved to approximately 30 pounds against the dollar, compared to the level of approximately 15.70, which remained stable from 2020 until March 21, 2022.
The head of the Arab Publishers Union, Muhammad Rashad, explains the increase in book prices, saying, “Production requirements have become very expensive. Paper has tripled in price, especially in Egypt, and in some other countries it has doubled. Therefore, the publisher has no fault in the high price of the book.”
He added, “I call on journalists and the media to urge everyone to visit the Cairo exhibition, because this confirms the importance of the exhibition as the largest exhibition in the region, and on the other hand, it is a protection for the publishing industry that does not receive any real support, because most Arab countries do not classify it as an independent industry.”
1,047 publishers from 53 countries are participating in the exhibition, which is organized by the Egyptian General Book Authority and runs until February 6 at the Egypt International Exhibition Center.
Tips and solutions
In light of a continuous dialogue on social media platforms about the prices of books, some solutions began to appear on the horizon to overcome the problem, and pages for reading enthusiasts raced to submit proposals.
Amr El-Maadawy, the founder of the “Al-Rawai” channel on YouTube, gave some advice to his followers, including learning about book prices through electronic platforms before going to the exhibition, searching for friends with similar reading taste, drawing up a joint purchase list from the exhibition, and then exchanging books later.
He also advised buying old editions of books because their price will be lower than their newer counterparts, but despite this he urged readers to go to the exhibition in all cases, saying, “Be aware (beware) because of temporary circumstances that rule out a need that makes you happy for years, you wait for it from year to year, you get used to it, And you break the routine of your day.-
Likewise, the poet and critic Sayed Mahmoud, who wrote on his Facebook page, “I repeat the invitation to friends to urge people to visit the book fair. About attending an event that has economic, cultural and political dimensions.--
He added, “There are many people whose work is tied to every pound that comes from a book. That’s why I tell people to go, and whoever God can help him buy even one book. The Culture Palaces Authority has good books and it’s still five pounds.”
As for the Egyptian Publishers Union, it offered more practical solutions by announcing the availability of installments for the value of purchases from the exhibition through credit cards of one of the national banks over a period of 6 months to a year.
Saeed Abdo, head of the federation, said that in addition to making books available in installments for the fair’s visitors, the federation offers great facilities to its publishers through an initiative to print books in installments as well, and other initiatives aimed at moving the market.
Although a large number of reading enthusiasts welcome the installment initiative, there are still concerns about its details, which was summed up by journalist George Onsi by saying, “I very much welcome this initiative because book prices have become abnormal, and therefore this is a practical solution, but my main fear is the interest rate on installments. Because if the interest is high, the whole thing doesn’t make sense.”
He added, “There is another point that may reduce the size of the benefit from the initiative, which is that the installments are made through credit cards, not direct bank debit cards, and there is a big difference between them, which means that the owners of the second type of cards, and I am one of them, will not benefit from the initiative.”
The exhibition will host an intellectual property conference on January 26, and another for translation from the Arabic language (Dr. Muhammad Anani’s course) on January 29, in addition to the professional program for those in charge of the publishing industry, which was introduced in the last session.
As for the guest of honor program at the exhibition, it includes 27 activities, including 23 seminars and lectures, with the participation of 85 writers, critics and academics, 4 theatrical performances, story readings for children, and 3 poetry evenings.
The Jordanian ambassador to Cairo, Amjad Al-Adaileh, said earlier, “Since Jordan was honored to receive the flag of the guest of honor last year, I started the first work, coordination and follow-up within an action plan based on the Ministry of Culture in the Kingdom to ensure qualitative participation and an active presence that displays the Jordanian culture in its diversity, literature, poetry, novel and history.” .
He added, “The Jordanian Ministry of Culture chose the title: Jordan… Civilization of the Past and Creativity of the Future, as a slogan for its participation in the exhibition, to demonstrate the continuity of the Kingdom’s cultural and intellectual achievement and production.”
Among the Jordanian poets participating in the exhibition are Maha Al-Atoum, Abdul Karim Abu Al-Sheih, Akram Al-Zoubi, Alian Al-Adwan, Halima Al-Abadi, Shawkat Al-Batoush, Abdullah Abu Shmeis and Amin Al-Rabee.