The Muscat International Book Fair is back after a gap of two years which were marred by coronavirus pandemic. The largest platform for all book lovers in the Sultanate of Oman, the fair with 361,230 titles from 570 publishers together from 27 countries around the world, will start from February 24.
The tell-tale signs of the fair, which is now in its 26th iteration, not only gets us excited about books, but also provides a happy place where authors, publishers and book enthusiasts come together to celebrate literature. It also offers a wonderful opportunity to discover new writers and reconnect with the classics.
When families, students and educators gather at book fairs, all of them interact with each other about the books of their interest, which on the other hand improves their reading appetite.
For children, it gives them access to a large variety of books, specifically selected to match their interests. It is at book fairs that they get an opportunity to discover mystery books, help build home libraries and enhance their interest in reading.
And for parents and elders, taking a stroll through the book fair will make them feel like kids again! It will all be nostalgia cherished in the old school days! I am sure this is a time they can get away from the routine angst or anxiety and relax.
A book fair is like the festival where all celebrate their love for reading. All the bibliophiles know how important books are in their lives.
Alas! The reading culture has undergone changes over the years. There was a time when reading books was tasking. To get a book of our choice we had to search the shelves of a library one by one. And the only way we could read a book was to be in a well-lit room or in an open space.
And if the book is heavy, use both hands to carry them, and a working table would be necessary if you needed to write notes while reading a book! I still remember the painstaking process involved while making a copy of the book.
But still we loved holding a book, smelling it and then getting lost in its world.
Now, one can access hundreds of resources on almost any subject with just a click of a button and by using search engines. The way Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press did in the 15th century, in the 21st century we are experiencing another such revolution, thanks to digital technology.
The reading culture has changed. We have moved from reading physical books with bookmarks to reading a book through the mobile device. With digital gadgets, you can store several books in one device.
Even as global book sales have broadly remained flat over the past decade, interestingly, however, there is still demand for hard copies as evidenced by the overwhelming response that book fairs continue to get.
Many people still prefer printed books, mostly for reading activities such as reading a book with their children at bedtime.
Significantly, as a crowd puller, at the Muscat Book Fair, as many as 114 cultural activities, among them 29 unique to the South Al Sharqiyah Governorate, will be staged, but children’s activities will be limited in line with Covid-19 precautionary measures.
Even though the Fair is not expected to clock the same elegant attendance of over one million visitors in 2019 due to restrictions, it will be a gateway opportunity for booklovers in the country.
So to say, even though change is in the air, the extent of this transformation to e-reading remains firmly under the readers’ control!