Amman’s International Book Fair kicked off on Wednesday (September 5) imbued with revolutionary themes in its fourteenth year.
Flags of Arab countries fluttered above the venue, inspired by tents which have been erected on squares and streets of Arab Spring countries.
Prime Minister Fayez al-Tarawneh inaugurated the event, which was organized by the Jordanian Writers Association (JWA) and the Ministry of Culture.
Organizers say the “Spring of Arab Culture” fair was an attempt to revive a response to the "dying" culture of reading printed books in the region.
The head of JWA, Adnan Zahran, said that demand for printed books had declined in the region, especially after political unrest swept to neighboring capital cities.
“We know what happened to (readership of) paper books. Also, Arab countries, which faced trouble (during the Arab spring), used to have important book fairs like Tunisia, Cairo, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Tunis. Therefore, it was important that we hold this book fair for Arab readers in Jordan and neighboring countries,” Zahran told Reuters.
Lebanese Publisher Bashar Shbaro said the Arab Spring has created some space for “braver” books.
“The Arab Spring which is still happening definitely influenced the types of books released. Of course, there are some books that still follow traditional style. This is normal. However, in addition to regular books, there are several books discussing causes of revolts, post revolts, what happened in each country,” said Shbaro.
Jordanian author, Moustapha al-Qarn, said that modern technologies and the growth of social media have “weakened” people’s interest in reading books.
“There is no doubt that new technologies have negatively affected printed books. But there are also so many books, which have been released recently discussing the Arab Spring and changes in the Arab world. No doubt, that Facebook and technology have played a big role in this and have weakened (readership) of printed backs,” said al-Qarn.
Visitors to the book fair are presented with a wide range of texts to browse, covering a diverse range of subjects from art and literature to science, culture, economics and politics.
The fair is expected to last for ten days and feature poetry seminars and art activities as well.