All’s not fair at the Book Fair

The Book Fair took place at a number of locations this year.

The Book Fair (photo credit: DUDI SA’AD)
The Book Fair
(photo credit: DUDI SA’AD)
The elderly man seemed totally disoriented and kept asking the taxi driver why he had driven him to this place instead of the address he had requested. After repeated attempts, he finally understood that the Jerusalem International Book Fair had been moved to a different location this year.
Still not sure that he had reached the right destination, he stepped into the First Station compound, visibly upset by the changes that had taken him twice from the American Colony Hotel where he was staying until this taxi driver finally took him to the right place.
The man was apparently not the only one who couldn’t understand the need to change the traditional venue of the Book Fair from Binyenei Ha’uma’s large halls to the new locale. In fact, the fair was relocated to six different venues, not all of them within walking distance of one another.
Yoel Makov, the director of the fair, which is organized by the Ariel subsidiary company, says the change of venue was the result of certain salient factors.
“For 50 years we had held the Book Fair at Binyenei Ha’uma, but in recent years we realized that while there is a increase in the number of young adults readers, these are exactly the people who do not attend the fair for a number of reasons,” he says.
According to Makov, young adults tend to go to places where they can find some entertainment facilities, thus slowly but surely they have abandoned the traditional location.
“That is why we held two separate events for the festive opening – one formal event at the YMCA in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin, where we awarded the Jerusalem Prize to Albanian writer Ismail Kadare, and another one later that evening with a huge dance party at the First Station, which was attended by more than 600 young adults, who seemed to enjoy it very much,” he says.
Makov admits that there was a decrease in the number of foreign publishing houses represented at the fair this year but stresses that the real deficiency is the large Israeli publishing houses. They are not participating because of the high cost of the fair and the crisis in the publishing industry.
Indeed, a short visit to the Book Fair is enough to realize that some of the largest Israeli publishers are absent, such as Keter and Yediot Aharonot. But even the foreign publishers do not have as large a representation as they did in past years. There, too, the financial crisis has taken its toll. Sources at some of the foreign publishers explain that the cost of participating in the fair is too high, and having to travel to Israel doesn’t make it any easier.
The Book Fair combines book exhibitions and encounters with writers and editors – local and foreign – with a wide range of other events. However, some visitors complain that it feels like a week of events alongside the book fair and not the other way around.
Makov explains that this is the first year of trying out the new concept and says that the organizers are considering all aspects in regard to planning the next fair, which is scheduled to take place in 2017.