• Conference welcomes booksellers, distributors and publishers from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa
  • Programme features four panel discussions on best practices and current trends

Sharjah: Over 200 booksellers, distributors and publishers from the Middle East, the South Asian subcontinent and African countries will come together in Sharjah for the first-ever Booksellers Conference in the world. Organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), the conference is a vital new addition to the emirate’s leading efforts to promote the publishing industry locally and regionally.  

To be held on the side-lines of the upcoming 13th edition of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), the event will take place over two days from May 15 – 16 at the Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone (SPCFZ).

The two-day event will be headlined by keynote speeches by industry experts and successful owners of book businesses who will highlight the historical role of booksellers in fostering a culture of reading in their communities, among other key topics.

Also featuring keynote addresses by other industry leaders and four panel discussions, the conference has been designed to encourage best practice sharing, and enable an in-depth analysis of current trends across several domains that impact bookselling, namely, digital strategies, stakeholder relationships, stock curation and presentation, customer engagement and new business models. Participants will also have the opportunity to network, present their titles and explore new market opportunities in a series of ‘Matchmaking’ sessions.

HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, said: “It is a matter of pride for Sharjah and SBA to be hosting the first-ever booksellers conference in the world. I’m delighted to see that our collaborative efforts have successfully created an exclusive platform for booksellers from the region and around the world to network, exchange ideas and expertise and explore new business opportunities”.

“Joining our existing offerings of professional programmes for publishers and librarians, this event will also allow booksellers from across the region seek new books for their stores and communities,” he added.

Mansour Al Hassani, Head of Sales Department at SBA, noted: “Sharjah’s leading cultural project turns a new leaf with the debut of the Booksellers Conference. The role played by booksellers is vital to the sustainability and future growth of the publishing industry, and with fast-changing consumer needs, booksellers need to continue updating their skills. This event is poised to provide actionable information useful for both new and experienced stores. We are confident that the conference will offer everything the regional and global bookselling community has come to expect.”  

Day 1 programme (May 15)

The Booksellers Conference will begin with a welcome speech by HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA. This will be followed by a panel discussion moderated Kuo-yu Liang, a prominent business consultant specialising in the bookselling industry, will shed light on best practices and case studies in community engagement and sales performance through digital channels, including websites, social media, e-newsletters and e-commerce.

The day’s activities will resume with a panel discussion on the importance of building solid relationships with stakeholders including publishers, authors, festivals and schools in order to run a successful bookshop. A group of distinguished speakers representing major publishing houses, retailers, book fairs and libraries around the world will share top tips on leveraging partnerships with these key audiences.

In a second keynote address, participants will hear from author and bookseller Nadia Wassef, who co-founded the Diwan Bookshop in Cairo 20 years ago and documented her experience in a book titled ‘Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller’. Wassef will share her journey to establishing one of the Arab world’s most reputable bookshops with multiple branches across Egypt, as well as the lessons she learned and the challenges she faced along the way.  

Day 2 programme (May 16)

The second day of the conference will open with a keynote speech by Jasmina Kanuric, Communications Advisor at the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF), who will provide insights into current trends in the global bookselling industry, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. She will also highlight the offerings of EIBF, which plays a major role in supporting booksellers and bookselling associations around the world.  

In the next session of the day, a panel of experts will delve into the topic of stock curation and presentation and staff training in customer service, exploring strategies to optimise the browsing and discovery experience of customers to maximise sales. 

Adjacent opportunities for bookshop businesses will be the focus of the final panel discussion of the conference. Three speakers will share their experiences in engaging with recent trends in diversified bookshop offerings including cafes and non-book products, as well as the advantages of print on demand technology.  

Wrapping up the conference, a keynote titled ‘The School for Booksellers: Learning and Teaching Bookselling’ will feature Nana Lohrengel, Secretary General of the Umberto and Elisabetta Mauri Foundation in Milan, in conversation with IPA Executive Committee member Simon Littlewood.