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Sharjah 2016 | TOURISM, CULTURE & SPORTS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, on building a thoroughly modern and innovative publishing industry and securing the region's literary heritage for the next generations.

HE Ahmed Al Ameri
BIOGRAPHY
Having studied at the prestigious Strayer College, Washington, DC, HE Ahmed Al Ameri holds a degree in business administration. He followed this with an executive master's degree in business administration from the University of Sharjah in 2003. Earlier positions include Director of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) and Head of Finance and Administrative Affairs at the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah, a post he held for over 10 years.

How is the authority working to encourage investment in the creative industries?

In 1979, HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, announced his strategy for Sharjah: building humanity through culture, art, and education. Since then, the Emirate has been progressively developing its human resources and expanding its knowledge capacity. In over 37 years of development, Sharjah has prioritized learning and knowledge acquisition and, through its offerings, the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) has been a key facilitator of education, entertainment, and business growth. An assessment of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), with its 1.5 million visitors each year and total sales of USD50 million, reveals the expansion in the publishing market. Last year more than 1,265 publishers from 69 countries around the world participated in the fair, making it the third-largest book fair in the world. In 2012, the value of books exported and imported was USD260 million. SIBF by itself facilitated between USD40 to USD50 million of this in direct sales or in agreements signed.

Innovation is something important for the Authority. What initiatives have you launched of note?

Last year we launched our advertising for SIBF 2016, with one component being a simple blank red page in newspapers that had glasses with red lenses attached. By wearing the glasses the reader could see a hidden message on the page. This innovative form of marketing had a significant impact, both in the UAE and overseas, creating a lot of interest in the fair. One of our main initiatives has been to expand SBA's presence abroad. SBA representatives have flown the Sharjah flag at literature fairs and events in Mexico, Japan, China, Sweden, South Africa, the US, Argentina, Russia, India, Germany, and Turin in Italy, which hosts Europe's largest book fair. Our promotional activities have helped Sharjah transform from a business networking only environment to being a hub for the publishing industry. One particular SBA innovation of note was the launch of the digital publication “Baba Zayed," which is available in Arabic and English. Baba Zayed is the first book of its kind in the world that uses 3D VR Glasses to enable children to read and at the same time enjoy 360-degree interaction with the story. We are utilizing the latest developments for expanding knowledge by recapturing youngsters' joy for books with the adoption of new and exciting interactive formats.

What is the potential for Sharjah Publishing City?

Sharjah Publishing City is the first-of-its-kind venture in the world. Its tax-free status means that if offers huge potential for anyone working in the publishing industry who is keen to set up a business in the region. We have many clients keen to take up tenancy in the free zone, which is scheduled to open in February 2017. The best way of viewing the venture is to see it as a “United Nations for books." Sharjah Publishing City will host individuals, companies, and organizations from around the world and will act as a focal point for people to communicate, network, and build relationships.

Can you tell us about the Sharjah library?

Sharjah Public Library was founded by Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi in 1925 under the name Al Qasimiyah Library, with the facility initially serving as his private archive. It became public when he opened it up for citizens who were keen to read and further their knowledge. The library's location has changed several times over the years, moving from Al Husn (Sharjah Fort) in Bait Al Gharbi under the Mudeef Building to Sharjah City Municipality, then to Africa Hall and then to Sharjah Cultural Centre and Sharjah University City. SBA has partnered with the American Library Association (ALA), which was established in 1876 and is the oldest organization for libraries in the world. The only ALA conference for librarians held outside the US is conducted at SIBF Sharjah.


 

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