RIYADH: The Riyadh International Book Fair 2021 taking place this week has attracted international publishing houses from France, Italy, India, Australia, and the US as local readers have welcomed the influx of international literature never before seen in the Kingdom.
Writers, publishers, cultural figures, and leaders from around the world are expected to attend the 10-day event, which opened Thursday, while crowds have already flocked to purchase international books on humanities, economics, science, children’s literature, and more.
“This is the first time we have been here as there were not a lot of English publishers exhibited at this fair.” Brad Hebel, a director from the Associated Press, told Arab News.
“I think for people it comes as a surprise and a delight to see all of these English books.”
Considered the largest book fair in the region, the Riyadh International Book Fair will see the participation of 1,000 publishing houses, but it is the books coming from the 28 international publishing houses that have drawn the most interest.
“Many of our books are not easily available in Saudi Arabia right now and people would like to have more access to them,” Simon Gwynn, managing director of the University Press Group, said.
“We have been talking to people and there has been a lot of good feedback from the selection that we have brought.”
Gwynn is one of the many international publishers featured at the book fair as he represents American publishing houses such as Columbia, California, MIT, and Princeton.
“Princeton is based in the US and they have books from the UK on economics, science, history, and a wide range of different subjects,” he said. “California mostly specializes in books about anthropology, wine, culture, and history as well.”
Catherine Bonifassi, president and CEO of Cassi Edition, a publishing house in France, shared some of the books offered in her booth on the opening day of the fair.
“The catalog in Cassi Edition is mainly about lifestyle, fashion, interior design, architecture, and as you can see, lots of art,” she said.
One of the Cassi Edition books displayed was “Dream of Al-Ula,” by acclaimed photographer Gilles Bensimon, who takes readers on a visual journey through the natural wonder and storied history of AlUla, a vast desert area located in Madinah province.
The book fair also offers a variety of children’s publications published in multiple languages.
Ali Gator, a publishing group out of Australia, has displayed its books in Riyadh for the past three years.
“We mainly publish children’s stories on lessons, manners, and other topics that aid in increasing the awareness and knowledge for children,” Muayyad Masoud, the manager of Ali Gator, told Arab News.
Masoud said he has received positive feedback from guests during the past three days and has recognized guests from previous book fairs returning to his booth.
While reading is the main focus of the book fair, there will also be cooking shows, cultural exhibitions, and guest lectures throughout the 10-day event. Interactive games, children’s booths, as well as reading stations, are also available at the book fair.