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Book fair failed to woo fans

By Edward Tsumele | Aug 12, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE first book fair in Gauteng, the Jozi Book Fair, was held at MuseumAfrica in Newtown at the weekend.

THE first book fair in Gauteng, the Jozi Book Fair, was held at MuseumAfrica in Newtown at the weekend.

The organisers of this potentially interesting event are probably planning the next one.

Next year's exhibition is a potential money spinner for the country, which is set to host the Fifa soccer World Cup.

Organisers should be thinking of innovative ways of attracting more people because the recent event, no matter how noble the idea, was not well planned.

Granted, the idea is good because it has created an opportunity for small commercial publishers, and those mainly from the NGO sector, to network and exchange ideas on how they can work together to develop a reading audience.

But a book fair is also supposed to offer business opportunities to exhibitors by attracting many people. Unfortunately, this was not the case. This calls for a change of strategy on the part of the organisers, especially when it comes to marketing the event.

You can't host a book fair without doing much publicity and hope to attract crowds.

For example, there were no banners around the host city. In fact, the only banners that could be seen were the two at the entrance to the exhibition.

To make matters worse, the official Women's Day activities on August 9 did not take place in Newtown, as is normally the case, but in KwaZulu-Natal.

The organisers might have made a bit of money through the hiring of stands and also from sponsors, but what about the exhibitors?

I was there on Saturday and Sunday. The people who trickled in were mainly arty types, and not the book-buying crowd as expected.

The truth is, the arty types buy books, but they do not need a book fair because they actually buy them anyway, book fair or not.

What the publishing industry needs at such fairs is a broad market of potential book buyers.

But not everything went wrong. The discussions and exchange of information were brilliant as publishers were given two days to network before the main event. Deals were supposedly struck.

Book launches also took place during the event.

Young intellectual Andile Mngxitama launched his controversial but popular journal New Frank Talk to a full house.

The discussion was frank but heated as Mngxitama argued that black people were incapable of being racist. He argued that the practice of racism presupposes that there is a presence of power in the system practising the diabolic thing.

Filmmaker Rehad Desai argued that black people did not belong in South Africa as the Khoisan were the true owners of the land and its wealth.

Novelist Angela Makholwa's launch of her new book, The 30th Candle, at nearby Xarra Books was also well attended.

Though there wasn't much business at the fair the lively discussions and networking point to the need for such a fair in Johannesburg as is the case with Cape Town, which hosts two book fairs annually.


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