Was The Book Fair a Success? [Archives:1999/42/Last Page]

October 18 1999

Tawfeek M. Al-Shra’abi
Yemen Times
It is a known fact that a generation that reads is a developed and a progressive one. As a result, a special focus is paid to students who will be the builders of a better tomorrow. The habit of reading should be developed in them. This is a fundamental way of expanding horizons which will bear fruits to students’ benefit as well as their communities. This is why there is a universal trend to emphasize the importance of books and reading. Books shape people’s way of thinking.
I have heard a lot about the international book fair that is held annually in Sana’a. Each year I felt sorry for not attending and picking up some precious books. I used to have fancy dreams and hopes of the day I will be able to visit such an exhibition and obtain the books I always dreamt of. When I heard about the latest International Books Fair kicked off by the Vice president on October 3, 1999, I thought that my hopes materialized. A great number of people, especially the educated ones, were also grounding their hopes on this exhibition. Official reports stating that “around 230 Printing and Publishing Houses are participating in this exhibition” assured all that everybody will have a nice chance to get valuable books that are out of stock in the local bookshops. Many students bore the trouble, expenses, waste of time and money to come to Sana’a from different governorates to get books they are in dire need for in their studies. They thought that the exhibition would include lots of books on different specializations for cheap prices. However, all their hopes came to ashes when they could see nothing of what they were looking for. It was the first time for me to attend such an exhibition, however, I wished I did not do so as to keep the rosy picture I used to have about such exhibitions.
If you had gone around the departments in this fair, you could have seen what I mean. Only a few books on specific topics were available. Foreign English Printing and Publishing Houses did not participate. The only department that contained English books was Daar Al-Hekmah Department, representing some books from Daar Al-Hekmah Library in Sana’a which could not at all satisfy the students’ needs. Besides, these books were too expensive to be affordable by students. Many students, studying in English departments in different universities, regretted their coming to Sana’a, wasting their money as well as time.
One of the visitors of this fair was a university teacher in Dhamar who said “I came here to buy some references, books and dictionaries for the English department, however, it seems that I will go back barehanded for there are not many English books. Besides, they are far much expensive than their prices outside. For example, an Indian edition of one of Shakespeare’s plays costs 800 riyals, however, it is for 550 riyals outside. If a student wants, for instance, to buy some dictionaries, he needs between 15,000 to 25,000 riyals. Can a “student” afford this?!”
This is distinctly a big problem that should be taken to board by our officials. Those in charge of the education process should maintain and grow students’ interest in reading and do not do the opposite. Such high prices will make students shun books. Hence, books will be restricted only to a select few.
The only thing that impressed most who visited the exhibition was the National Council for Culture, Arts and Literature from Kuwait. It represented different books of “Alam Al-Marefah”. This department was the only virtue of this exhibition. Many precious as well as invaluable books were on sale for 150 riyals. Its books were earlier out of stock. You could see people in the other departments, however, they were just looking.
To cap it all, I hope that our officials will admit facts and try to overcome such limitations in the coming exhibitions. Will they lend me their ears?!! I hope so.