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Cape Town stages successful Book Fair

7 July 2008

The success of this year's Cape Town Book Fair reflects a healthy and growing interest in books in South Africa. The Fair doubles as a literary festival, with many authors and events, and this year it attracted just under 50,000 visitors, more than twice as many as in its inaugural year two years ago (see News Review 3 July 2006).

In the meantime there's been a growth in African publishing and in the visibility of African writers, although the Fair's original aim to attract African publishers has not yet been achieved. Of the 293 exhibitors 34% were European, Asian, Latin American or American and only 3% were from the rest of Africa. The Publishers' Association of South Africa and the Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two., which jointly run the Fair, have further work to do attracting African publishers to what is already replacing the Zimbabwe Book Fair as the biggest pan-African fair.

A lively blog on Book Southern Africa gives more details of the events, but the sheer exuberance and enjoyment comes through in the report written for Publishing News by Isobel Dixon, literary agent and poet, who described this year's Fair as having 'a triumphant buzz to it'.

In the meantime the international publishing world is beginning to pay more attention to African writers and their increasing success on the worldwide stage is promoting the energetic and talented new voices coming from the sub-continent.

But there's still room for plenty of development in the number of books available in Africa. Last year the South African Book Development Council reported that more than half of South African households have no leisure books, and the Fair reflected a particular attempt to attract more families, with a consequent increase in children attending.

Elsewhere the picture still shows that there is a long way to go, with many African countries struggling to provide books for school-children and students, let alone being on the way to developing a reading culture. Book Aid InternationalSupplies much-needed books to developing countries, raising funds from publishers and general public; 'Reverse Book Club' is masterly idea-for just £5 ($10) month you can provide 48 books to go to where they're most needed, which works to send books to Africa, is rapidly expanding the reach of its programmes, and reckons that it costs the charity just £1.25 to send a book to Africa. Its Reverse Book Club sends four books a month to Africa for just £5, making it a wonderful charity for everyone in the book trade to support.

Book Southern Africa

Book Aid International