Saturday, April 18, 2009
While many of my friends and colleagues in Europe are preparing for this week's London Book Fair, I am 10,552 km (6557 miles) away at one of Asia's most popular book fairs, the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair.
Malaysia's major book fair - or Pesta Buku Antarabangsa as it is know locally - is more of a consumer fair than a trade fair and attracts massive crowds over its ten days. Over 2 million visitors were estimated to attend last year's fair and, judging by the shoulder-to-shoulder crush on opening weekend, similar hordes are planning on attending this year.
While consumers attend the fair to snap up bargains from the 190 exhibitors, 160 of which are Malaysian, the fair's central location in south-east Asia also attracts exhibitors from other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (or ASEAN) countries, such as Singapore and the Philippines, international companies such as John Wiley & Sons, the Oxford and Cambridge university presses and Cengage Learning, plus some from as far away as Brunei, Egypt and India.
I'm here as part of a Matrade-funded 'incoming buying mission,' along with publishing colleagues from Germany, Taiwan, Denmark and Italy. We're here to discover more about Malaysian literature and meet with our Malaysian peers.
Malaysia has a population of 27 million and has one of the highest literacy rates in the region (93.2% for citizens over 15). While not traditionally a country with a strong book-reading culture, the Malaysian Government, through the various agencies of its Department of Education (which include the Malaysian National Institute of Translation, which co-funds translations of Malay language works).
More about the fair will follow shortly.