Instilling reading habit, celebrating books

Muscat, Feb 25 –

The 23rd Muscat International Book Fair has brought in regular publishers as well as newcomers, besides attracting readers of all ages.
“We are happy the Muscat International Book Fair has been developing significantly especially in the last two years. We have achieved a good reputation at the regional level and the number of titles has increased to 500,000,” Ali bin Khalfan al Jabri, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Information, said.
“In addition, there is diversity in the cultural activities being held at the fair, making it distinctive,” he added.
“We honoured three Omani literary names whom we lost this year. An interesting aspect of the book fair is the inclusion of Jalees by the main organising committee. This is where visitors can write their comments as well as suggestions,” said the under-secretary.
An important percentage of buyers are students. For many families, a visit to the fair has become an annual tradition. “My daughter buys a lot of books, but her favourite are autobiographies and biographies. She has to read before she calls it a day,” said Matloob al Wahaibi.
Special steps have been taken to encourage children to take up reading.
“We are making all efforts to encourage the reading habit in children by allocating a special corner and a theatre for them. We highlight children’s activities. This has been so especially in the last two years because we do not want children to be only concerned with modern means of communication. Book is a means of cultural building and sound thinking.”
Magdy el Shazly, editor of Amaad Magazine, specialised in culture, said: “The last time I was here was in 2010. This time, I am impressed with the book fair, its location and its organisation because people have space to explore the collection of books leisurely. Readers seem to prefer fiction. The book price also looks good.”
The book fair is a major attraction for students as schools see the event as an opportunity to inculcate the habit of reading in them.
“The books might be a bit expensive for students, so it might be a good idea if discounts are offered to them,” said the editor.
But some regular participants know the interest of the young readers, especially college students. Bala, whose book shop is based in Oman, has been a regular participant at the book fair. He said: “The college students know they will get special prices on textbooks and other professional books. So they do not mind waiting for a few months. Our popular professional books are engineering and medical books.”
Oman Post has come up with a special initiative. It will deliver the books up to 3 kg free of cost to any location in the Sultanate.
A regular shopper at Muscat International Book Fair, Juma al Maskeri, has a few tips to offer, “I make a list of the books I want. I come to the sections where books are available and ensure they are there. I come the next day to purchase them.”
He is equipped with a camera as well. “You never know what you will come across.”
He is right as there are different organisations representing themselves through their publications. An example is the Oman Geological Society, which has an exceptional exhibit – an 800-million-year-old rock.