Art And Culture

More Spacious, Less Organized

Sports, Art & Culture Desks
More Spacious, Less OrganizedMore Spacious, Less Organized

No matter how far the venue of the Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF), visitors rush to the annual event judging by the huge crowd daily at its new venue at the Shahr-e-Aftab (Sun City).

It truly looks like a mini city considering its spread over 65 hectares and the hundreds of thousands of people visiting every day.

Inaugurated on May 3, the 29th TIBF is no different as far as the public reception is concerned or compared to the previous editions at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosalla (prayer grounds) and the Tehran International Permanent Fairground, both within the city. A significant annual cultural event in the capital, the book fair still attracts millions of visitors who follow it wherever it goes, even 20 km south of Tehran!

One of the reasons to move the book fair far away from the city was to resolve the issue of snarling traffic which Tehran faced when the TIBF or for the matter other exhibitions were  held previously in the two crowded neighborhoods. The new location has been able to address the matter to some extent; however, on the first three days which coincided with the extended weekend, the roads leading to the parking space faced terrible traffic jams.

In fact, knowing that the parking can hold 20,000 vehicles, many people arrived in their private cars, but the long narrow entry points are simply not designed to take the huge influx at one go, leading to severe traffic congestion, far heavier than the ones occurring at the earlier venues.

Unable to do anything about it, the officials suggested that people use public transportation, like the subway, to get to the fair. Yet it was no proper answer to the swarm of book fans and families who took the underground transport in subway coaches packed like sardines, and were further delayed at the last station as they waited for shuttle buses and vans to drop them to the entrance of the exhibition.

 Pleasant Atmosphere

After enduring all the hardship, entering the Sun City, however, brings a pleasant experience. It is a massive place filled with several halls and buildings accommodating local and international publishers, food stalls in the open grounds, special places for children and young adults to play and beautiful flowers, plants, gardens and pools at various sites.

The public is attending the fair (ends on May 14) in large numbers, a surprise for both organizers and publishers as they did not expect so many people due to the faraway location. However, there are mixed opinions about the new venue.

Manager of Mahi (literally fish) publication Mohammad Vashui told the Financial Tribune that their customers are as many as before and sales had not decreased. He even expressed pleasure over the bigger stall he has this year and more space to present his titles.

But the director of Naghme-ye-Zendegi (literally song of life) Publication Razzaq Rezaei, believes that people’s purchases are relatively low compared to the number of visitors. One shortcoming “is the rather disorganized arrangement of stalls. What should and used to be sorted in alphabetical order, now is rather haphazard causing book buyers to have difficulty in finding the publisher they are looking for.”

The distribution manager of Hermes Publishers Heshmat Omidi rued the problems that still exist and are carried over from the previous locations.

“The fair officials do not let the vehicles carrying our books come in so we have to get porters to carry them to our stall which is both time consuming and carries extra cost,” he told the Tribune. They have talked to the fair managers and the issue is still ongoing.

Hermes is one of the leading publishers in Iran and although they have 50 new titles, their stall is smaller compared to the previous years. Omidi lamented the “unfair decision” and said the less space given to them does not suffice to display all their books and it has affected sales.

The international section is less crowded compared to the local sections.

A publisher from India said the high rate of the dollar in Iran has made imported books expensive and resulted in a drastic drop in sales. “If a book of $100 cost 400,000 rials in Iran a couple of years ago, now it costs 10 times more,” he told this reporter.

All in all, what seems to be positive about the fair regarding the public attendance is somehow blurred because of the fact that book reading is still not common among the people.

High prices is one of the reasons but more importantly, it is the culture of book reading which is not yet institutionalized in our country, although book buying is trendy especially during the exhibition season!