Georgia’s World Book Capital Program Hosts its Black Sea Conference


The inaugural conference on the Caucasus and the Black Sea Basin was the centerpiece of UNESCO’s World Book Capital in Tbilisi.

The closing ceremony of the UNESCO World Book Capital 2021 event at the Bioli Wellness Resort in Tbilisi on April 14. Image: GPBA

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

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A first conference in Tbilisi

As Publication prospects readers will remember, very shortly after the closing of the London Book Fair, the Georgian Association of Publishers and Booksellers organized a dual-purpose event in Tbilisi, organizing and hosting the first Caucasus and Black Sea Basin Regional Publishing Conference and the celebration of the end of the year of the city as the year of the world book capital of UNESCO and the handover to Guadalajara, the newly designated.

A fine representation of global publishing leadership was present, even with the tight turnaround that followed London. This included strong participation from the International Publishers Association (IPA), which initiated the creation of the World Book Capital decades ago, of course, as well as many director-level figures from book fairs and conferences. .

During the two-day conference, those of us who have worked on such events among ASEAN delegations in Southeast Asia may have been reminded of how regions rich in cultural history, in tradition and importance can easily live together without necessarily being in contact, not always even for the translation of each other’s literature.

An outsider’s perspective on these occasions, however, always quickly turns out to be too based on surface comparisons. The markets and interests represented in the broad gathering of the conference arrived with real distinctions and nuances in terms of challenges and objectives. It’s never as benign an exercise as some might expect it to translate to, “See? We all have the same problems. »

The truth is that there are dramatically different issues and benefits in different markets, no matter how geographically close they are to each other. The program devised by Gvantsa Jobava, vice-president of the Georgian Association of Publishers and Booksellers and member of the IPA executive committee, has highlighted these points, at least as a starting point for reflection, comparison and discussion.

Delegates to the Caucasus and Black Sea Basin Regional Publishing Conference in Tbilisi came from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania. At the center of our plan is Shahbaz Khuduogly, Qanun Publishing House, Azerbaijan; and his wife Nigar Kocharli of Ali and Nino Bookstores and Ali and Nino Publishing House. Image: GPBA

In a panel moderated by Publication prospectsfor example, the competition between literature translated from abroad and the development of a community of local and national authors and readership was the starting point for a series of comments that would include the obstacles of the Romanian market caused by the absence of strong state aid and an underdeveloped “reading habit” compared to other European states.

A bookseller in Turkey’s comment on a panel moderated by IPA’s James Taylor revealed that she herself is an ebook fan, but does not see e-reading making great strides in the market in the short term , except where increasing traffic delays and a growing population of time spent wasting “too much time every day” on the roads are driving new interest in audio.

International Publishers Association Copyright Committee Chair Jessica Sänger, left, leads a discussion on copyright and piracy at the regional publishing conference of the Caucasus and the Black Sea to Tbilisi. With her on stage are Tina Mamulashvili, Sulakauri Publishing, Georgia, and Mehmet Erkurt, Can Çocuk Yayınları, Turkey. Image: Publishing Insights, Porter Anderson

When the Börsenverein’s Director of International and European Affairs and Legal Advisor, Jessica Sänger, ably chaired a session on copyright, with guests from Turkey and Georgia, piracy became a focal point of the conversation – in this case, pointing to a seriously damaging problem that brings cohesion to a discussion for the wrong reason of its severity.

A discussion between publishers from Bulgaria, Georgia and Azerbaijan, however, would tell moderator Emma House that “stories of survival and success” can be very different from market to market.

A session on translation hosted by Publishing Perspectives features, from left to right, Armen Martirosyan of Antares Publishing in Armenia; Dan Croitoru from Editura Polirom in Romania; and Zviad Kvaratskhelia of Georgian publishing houses Artanuji and Intelekti. Image: Publishing Insights, Porter Anderson

On the contrary, the fact that this conference – a first – was convened by Jobava and the leadership of the Georgian association within the framework of the World Book Capital led by Ninia Matcharaschvili, was really the point. This was an exercise in finding and recording baselines for future discussions. Uncovering issues, from the prominence of agents in Armenia to Russian expansionism and its impact on so many of these cultures, all needed to be addressed, described, and connected for future debate and discovery.

Further iterations of this new conference context, that of the Caucasus and Black Sea Basin markets, can now take place with a clearer picture of the topography of their own industries – even if they are overshadowed for the time being. , of course, by the pangs of the Ukrainian market.

And speaking of Ukraine, here, by video link because they can’t travel safely, there were interventions from Oksana Khmelyovaska from Chytomo; Bohdana Neborak; Andrey Kurkov of PEN Ukraine; Yulia Kozlovets from the International Book Arsenal Festival; and more.

Gvantsa Jobava, right, moderates a session in which Ukrainian Yulia Kozlovets of the International Book Arsenal Festival speaks via video link (seen on screen). Also on stage are Desislava Alexieva, left, president of the Bulgarian Book Association; and Mihai Mitrica, center, executive director of the Association of Romanian Publishers. Image: GPBA

The Caucasus and Black Sea Basin Regional Publishing Conference, for all the warm hospitality of our hosts in Tbilisi who welcomed us and our guests for the conclusion of the year of the World Book Capital , will return with new consistency in its next iteration – when and where it might take place – because that initial event took on the importance of freedom to publish and brought in someone as experienced in the subject as the Bangkok-based editor Travsin Jittidecharak on the occasion to lead a discussion.

Travsin Jittidecharak, left, of Silkworm Books of Thailand and the IPA Committee for Freedom to Publish, leads a session in Tbilisi with Mehmet Erkurt, Can Çocuk Yayınları, Turkey, center; Georgian writer Irakli Kakabadze, right; and on screen, Azerbaijani writer Gunel Movlud. Image: GPBA

Indeed, in her keynote address to the conference on April 11, IPA President Bodour Al Qasimi spoke of the importance of conferences like this, an event she described as a prime example of creative collaboration in the region, a success in diplomatic terms, with words and books offering the possibility of building bridges and healing divisions.

At the same time, said Bodour, these moments have major significance in their potential as tools to improve the economics of publishing.

She called on industry stakeholders to push boundaries and overcome obstacles through stronger partnership and teamwork.

Indeed, Bodour took the opportunity to launch the Georgian translation of his own book, world book capitalgiving a reading in English while Jobava told the story in Georgian.

In Tbilisi, a meeting with members of the Georgian Association of Publishers and Booksellers is led by the President of the International Publishers Association, Bodour Al Qasimi, center, with the Chairwoman of the Georgian Copyright Committee ‘IPA, Jessica Sänger, left, and IPA General Secretary, José Borghino. Image: IPA, Nabs Ahmedi

The Tbilisi City Hall, the Bank of Georgia are to be commended for their support, as well as the Georgian Association of Publishers and Booksellers and the Tbilisi World Book Capital Program and UNESCO for making this new start possible. dialogue, growth and development in a special year in anything but easy times.

Follow our coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and its impact on the country’s publishing industry and the reactions of the international industry.

To learn more about the Georgian publishing industry and the book market, click here. More information on freedom to publish and freedom of expression here, and more about the International Book Publishing Conference events is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the global media partner of International Association of Publishers.

To learn more about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on international book publishing, click here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.


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