Book fair brings peo­ple of dif­fer­ent walks of life to­gether

The Sunday Independent - - NEWS -

IF THERE’S any ini­tia­tive that strength­ens the so­cial fab­ric of the coun­try, it has to be the South African Book Fair.

This year’s lit­er­ary event opened on Fri­day at Mu­seum Africa in New­town and has in­cor­po­rated the pro­vin­cial Na­tional Book Week.

Pan Macmil­lan South Africa man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Terry Mor­ris, who is part of the steer­ing com­mit­tee of the South African Book Fair, says the lit­er­ary in­dus­try as a whole needed to be in­cor­po­rated in the book fair.

“We needed a much bigger fair that in­cluded the whole in­dus­try and the South African Book Coun­cil took own­er­ship of the fair and they in­cor­po­rated it into their Na­tional Book Week.

“The great thing about this is that Na­tional Book Week hap­pens around the coun­try in all prov­inces and this is the con­clud­ing event,” says Mor­ris.

“The pub­lish­ers and pa­per man­u­fac­tur­ers are a part of this.

“It re­ally is an in­dus­try-wide ini­tia­tive which is ex­cit­ing be­cause there’s a huge busi­ness pro­gramme.”

Speak­ing about the var­i­ous pub­lish­ers in­volved in the book fair, to show­case the books they’ve pub­lished, Mor­ris says pub­lish­ers such as Pan Macmil­lan and stores like Ex­clu­sive Books will be avail­able to sell some books.

“There are around 50 pub­lish­ers all ex­hibit­ing, they are go­ing to be in­volved in train­ing ses­sions over the two days so it’s a skills de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, but it also al­lows them to show­case their prod­ucts to meet other peo­ple within the chain and also to speak to other SMMEs go­ing through very sim­i­lar is­sues.

“Some of the bigger pub­lish­ers are here from your ed­u­ca­tion, aca­demic and trade pub­lish­ing. There’s a re­search lane where all the uni­ver­sity presses are.

“Ex­clu­sive Books is sell­ing books and African Flavour Books have got a book stall,” says Mor­ris.

The book fair is for ev­ery­one. Pupils who may not have ac­cess to li­braries also have an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the won­der­ful world of books.

While panel dis­cus­sions are avail­able with talks on books and pub­lish­ing, there’s a magic tent area where there will be sto­ry­telling to chil­dren.

“It’s for peo­ple who love books, who are ei­ther in the in­dus­try or in the loop with what is hap­pen­ing and fol­low the South African in­dus­try.

“There are quite a few pan­els around pol­i­tics and fem­i­nism.

“So it has an in­ter­est for ev­ery­one,” says Mor­ris, adding that the num­ber of peo­ple who read books in South Africa has grown.

“The num­ber of peo­ple who read in South Africa is chang­ing rad­i­cally.

“So we’re see­ing a lot of in­de­pen­dent book sell­ers start­ing up like Bridge Books and African Flavour.

“Some­thing like Bridge Books sup­plies all the street book sell­ers.

“Ex­clu­sive Books are rolling out ex­cit­ing African lit­er­a­ture.

“I think li­braries are do­ing their best while un­der­funded in some ar­eas.

“There’s a lot hap­pen­ing. It’s easy to say that South Africans don’t read but a lot is be­ing in­cor­po­rated.”

Pub­lisher Veron­ica Klipp of Wits Uni­ver­sity Press, which is the old­est uni­ver­sity press in the coun­try (es­tab­lished in 1922), spoke about their in­volve­ment in the fair.

“We have some aca­demic books and some in African lan­guages.

“We pub­lish au­thors around the coun­try, while some are based overseas. The books are al­ways about South Africa.”

Wits Uni­ver­sity Press also does a lot of books on his­tory and pol­i­tics that make a con­tri­bu­tion to the so­cial fab­ric of the coun­try.

They also pub­lish books in African lan­guages.

“Wits Press has been in­volved with the fair since it started. We think it’s im­por­tant for books to be show­cased pub­licly in South Africa to pro­mote a cul­ture of reading.

“Our books are not re­ally aimed at chil­dren, they would be adult non-fic­tion,” says Klipp.

“We want to do our own books based on our own re­search. It is be­lieved up to 60% of homes in South Africa don’t have books but that could be due to so­cio-eco­nomic is­sues. I think there is work to be done but I wouldn’t say we don’t read. I think we do but there needs to be some improvement. Kids es­pe­cially, need to start reading from an early age,” says Klipp.

Books they have on of­fer in­clude a bi­og­ra­phy on An­drew Mlan­geni, The Back­room Boy, which was re­leased a cou­ple of months ago, and they have books which have been trans­lated into African lan­guages. The book fair ends to­day. @Le­segoMak­gatho

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