Book fair brings people of different walks of life together
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