The Armenian Pavilion at the London Book Fair

We require no lesson in the significance of books; wherever we go their influence can be seen, whether it be in the education they provide, the story they pass on, or the religion they spread. And though we may find ourselves in a time when book sales are on the decline – shown by the £74 million reduction in book sales in 2012 – we should never underestimate the importance of books.

On 15th to 17th of April the London Book Fair took place in Earls Court. Among the hundreds of stores present at the exhibition there was the Armenian Pavilion. The opening took place on Monday 15th, with speeches from both the organising committee and visitors. From history books to cook books to children’s books, there were a vast array of books in our section in both Armenian and English, laid out in a professional manner by the committee who did an excellent job of making our store as vibrant and approachable as possible. This year marks the 500thanniversary of Armenian printing and it was great to see that both inside Armenia and in the Diaspora the book industry remains strong, indicating there is a market for them.

On one side a mere five seconds away lay the Azeri store containing a smaller variety of books, mainly concentrating on politics, geography and history (of the past 30 years). Among titles of books they had were ‘Khojaly’ and ‘Karabagh’. One must only turn a few pages of these to notice the factual errors, but those books are the product of the Azeri publishing industry: it is those books which are sold in Azerbaijan, teaching falsities and creating misconceptions not just for the current generation but for future generations which will one day lead the Azeri nation.

On the other side of Armenia about ten seconds away was the Market Focus of the International Book Fair: Turkey. From the moment you step outside Earl’s Court station Turkey is blasted in your face, whether it is the Turkish flags in front of the exhibition centre or the advertisements that surround you inside. The Market Focus aims to put a spotlight on that nation and create further publishing links with it. Turkey is the focus this year due to its strong publishing industry which has over 150 distribution companies, 8% VAT on books (compared with the standard 18% rate) and 493,469,643 books produced in 2011.

The Turkish area was visibly more organised, cleaner, larger, more aesthetically pleasing and had more hospitable and intellectual staff than the Azeri store. Additionally, they had a greater variety of books on display, among which were ancient history books and books discussing the Turkish identity. Turkey’s political and economic weight may have contributed to their Market Focus status, which will assist their book industry in growing even more, but with determination and solid policy there is no reason why Armenia cannot become a Market Focus.

Azerbaijan and Turkey both hold value among the international community, Azerbaijan due to its immense oil reserves and Turkey due to its local superpower status. So what value does Armenia hold? Not much. To eventually hold influence in international affairs Armenia needs to gain value. The potential is there but solid long-term policy is required to turn this potential into something to bolster Armenia’s influence. For our books may be older and culturally richer then our neighbours’, but as long as Armenia fails to gain value and turn that value into positions like the ‘Market Focus’, we will constantly find ourselves in between the books of Turkey and Azerbaijan.

— Vahe Boghosian

Photo: Vahe Boghosian

  • Facebook

  • Our Monthly Newsletter

    Yeritasard Newsletter

  • Mailing List

  • Donate

  • —————————————————————-

    Get involved - click here