Mapping out Arab international book fairs. Investigating the development of the Muscat book fair

Publication Date08 May 2017
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-02-2017-0008
Pages280-297
Date08 May 2017
AuthorAli Saif Al-Aufi,Nabhan Al-Harrasi,Shahid Al-Balushi,Hamed Al-Azri
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library & information services
Mapping out Arab international
book fairs
Investigating the development of the
Muscat book fair
Ali Saif Al-Au and Nabhan Al-Harrasi
Department of Information Studies, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman
Shahid Al-Balushi
Department of Operations Management and Business Statistics, Sultan
Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman, and
Hamed Al-Azri
The Main Library of Sultan Qaboos University, Sultan Qaboos University,
Muscat, Oman
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this study is to investigate the status, challenges and impacts of the Arab
international book fairs, with particular focus on the Muscat Book Fair. This study proposes a framework to
assist in the design and organisation of future Arab book fairs.
Design/methodology/approach The study used a variety of methods to obtain data, including
questionnaires, site visits (both regional and international), observations and interviews. A literature review
was also undertaken which helped determine major worldwide issues related to aspects of book fairs and the
publishing industry, focusing on Arab book fairs.
Findings Arab international book fairs remain relatively traditional, however, there are several examples
of innovative improvements in some states. Reading habits and literacy trends were found to be inuenced by
dominant socio-cultural factors, emphasising religion and children’s literature. This seems to have a reverse
effect on the publishing industry. Results also revealed a number of disadvantages related to economic
downturns and political instability. Despite continuous expansion, Arab book fairs still suffer from various
obstacles which affect the publishing industry’s growth. There are other obstacles that they face which are
directly associated with distribution and marketing as well as violations of intellectual property laws.
Practical implications This study proposes a framework for future improvement of the Muscat Book
Fair. It discusses the engagement of local cultural institutions, non-prot community and academic
organisations, as well as private sector organisations. These will leverage value and help keep abreast of
international developments in book fairs/publishing. It is hoped that the proposed framework will be
benecial to those running book fairs at a regional level, and to countries with developing economies.
Originality/value There have been no previous empirical studies investigating book fairs in the Arab
states. This study adds to the currently scarce body of literature related to book fairs and the publishing
industry.
Keywords Oman, Libraries, Arab book fairs, Book fairs, Book publishing industry,
Muscat international book fair, Reading habits
Paper type Research paper
This research is funded by the Ministry of Information and Sultan Qaboos University, Oman.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/2398-5348.htm
ILS
118,5/6
280
Received 20 February 2017
Revised 7 May 2017
20 June 2017
Accepted 20 June 2017
Informationand Learning Science
Vol.118 No. 5/6, 2017
pp.280-297
©Emerald Publishing Limited
2398-5348
DOI 10.1108/ILS-02-2017-0008
Introduction
Book fairs play an important role and involve several participants in the publishing industry
and the advancement of knowledge enquiry (Moeran, 2010). The history of book fairs dates
back more than ve centuries, with the Frankfurt Book Fair being renowned as the oldest,
largest and most famous (Moeran, 2010;Weidhaas, 2009). Book fairs have evolved over time,
however, recent rapid advancements driven by information and communication technology
have only occurred in the past three decades, which has fundamentally transformed and
reshaped the traditional perception of book fairs.
Although well-known international book fairs have witnessed major changes (Moeran,
2010), Arab book fairs only date back to the 1950s – the rst book fair occurred in Beirut,
Lebanon in 1956, followed by a 1969 fair in Cairo, Egypt (Al-Kilani, 2014). They have, by and
large, continued in the same vein, save a number of changes in the past ve years. The
primary offering of the majority of Arab book fairs was the display and sale of printed books,
with modest cultural/learning activities being held as an additional offering.
An understanding of such a cultural activity (and its effects on society) can be reached if
the attitudes, views and opinions of visitors, the organising committee’s members and others
involved (such as publishers, book vendors and distributors) are known. This is important
because these participants collectively contribute to the success and performance of book
fairs. Book fairs represent contexts that are worth studying, not only for comparison
purposes but also to gain insight and views that are compatible with user attitudes, and
cultural and intellectual trends.
The Muscat Book Fair (MBF) is a distinctive international cultural event. It is also locally
important and essential for promoting literacy, and raising awareness of the same, among
members of the Omani society. However, a detailed analysis is required to understand its
impact on literacy and intellectuality, and transform its activities into a measurable value.
Whilst the primary focus is the MBF, this study attempts to investigate the status of Arab
book fairs generally. It also seeks to identify possible directions and practices through which
this annual event can better meet the cultural needs of Omani society. It will consider
regional and international changes pertaining to the development of international book fairs.
More specically, the study seeks to achieve the following sub-objectives:
determine the current status of Arab book fairs, with particular focus on the MBF;
identify the factors affecting the development of Arab book fairs; and
provide a framework for a developmental plan to improve the Muscat International
Book Fair and its societal and cultural impact.
This study provides outcomes using a scientic mixed-method approach, including a eld
study, using questionnaires, interviews, observations and site visits. It also discusses the
existing literature. The ndings can be useful for the organising committee of the MBF and
other book fairs in the region. It is proposed that they can use the values and outcomes
expected from organising and running such events as a reference point to understand how
expected outcomes can effectively be measured for persistent evaluation and improvement.
This study also adds to the currently scarce body of literature related to the region’s book
fairs and publishing industry.
Contextual background
Arab book fairs
Arab book fairs have taken place for more than ve decades, with their primary purpose
being to transmit knowledge and cultural understanding among Arab societies. The rst
Arab book fairs were organised in Beirut and Cairo. An early, prominent Arab book fair was
281
Arab
international
book fairs

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