Cape Town Book Fair 2008 — International Publishers Congress to be held in Africa in 2012

Cape Town Book Fair 2008 -- International Publishers Congress to be held in Africa in 2012

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The IPA Congress flag was handed over to PASA, the Publishers Association of South Africa, by IPA President Ana María Cabanellas at last month\’s IPA Publishers Congress in Seoul, Korea. She says: “The 29th IPA Publishers Congress will be a unique opportunity to understand the South African publishing industry and the African book market as a whole.”

Brian Wafawarowa, Chair of the African Publishers Network (APNET), concurs: “Every region that has won the bid to host the IPA congress has utilised the rare opportunity to emphasise the centrality of the book to national economic and social development. With the Cape Town Book Fair becoming the premier book fair in Africa, the hosting of the 2012 IPA congress by South Africa will have a positive impact on the book sector on the continent.”

IPA organises a Publishers Congress and a Copyright Symposium every two years alternately, in co-operation with one of its member associations. Previous IPA congresses were held in Seoul, Korea in 2008, in Berlin, Germany in 2004, in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2000 and in Barcelona, Spain in 1996.

“In 2012, the IPA Publishers Congress will be held back-to-back with the Cape Town Book Fair, which has already established itself as a rallying point for African publishers,” says Dudley Schroeder, Executive Director of PASA. “Many delegates to the IPA Publishers Congress will attend both events and will also have an interest in exploring our beautiful city, province and country. The IPA Publishers Congress programme will focus on networks between publishers and creating two-way exchanges between the African continent and the rest of the world.”

Meanwhile the Cape Town Book Fair attracted some 50,000 visitors – almost double the visitor numbers reached at its inaugural probe two years ago. What may have helped was a long weekend with the Youth Day holiday on the Monday, celebrating South Africa\’s young people in commemoration of  the 1976 Soweto uprising, even though any celebration must have been muted by the aftermath of xenophobic violence rocking the country only weeks earlier.

While figures are a good measure of the success of an event they do not tell the whole story. \”This year we are picking up a trend of transformation in the demographics of those attending the fair,\” CTBF Director Vanessa Badroodien said. \”This year\’s fair gives the feeling that it really is an inclusive one, that people have come to it because of a love of reading and that because the talks are free it is very accessible, which is something that we have put high on the agenda.”

Badroodien\’s words echo those of former Minister of Education Professor Kader Asmal who opened the fair saying, \”My dream is that one day every township in South Africa will have a real bookshop, and that books will be sold at a price that are affordable to all.\”

An interesting event was a talk by Book Southern Africa\’s Ben Williams, who made a presentation on Books and Blogs: Creating Effective Online PR. He provided advice on how to try to maximise online book sales, and just as importantly reminded us that Internet users have progressed from being passive recipients of information to active originators of content.

There was also a discussion about the newly published novel Whiplash by Tracey Farren. An often violent account of prostitution in Cape Town, the novel was rejected by several commercial publishers as being too brutal, before finding a home with recently established independent publisher Modjaji Books. Sales look promising and distribution in the UK and Australia is already being examined. It once again illustrated the willingness and commitment of independent publishers to take risks with new and often controversial work.

Many exhibitors, however, were critical of the CTBF\’s seeming lack of business thrust. One publisher said that part of the problem was that the fair should perhaps be more of a trade show for publishers, printers and distributors, and less a bookselling market for the general public.