Thursday, November 06, 2008

Buku belum Lupus - Pesta Buku Dunia Sharjah

Tidak berapa lama dahulu, buku dikatakan bakal lupus dengan keujudan laman web dan lain-lain alat komunikasi digital. Sebagaimana pernah dikatakan video akan menguburkan radio. Masih ingat lagi lagu, "Video kills the radio star!"

Apalagi dengan kehadiran Amazon Kindle (pembaca-e atau e-reader yang dianggap iPod Amazon), boleh memuatkan ratusan buku-buku seperti sebuah perpustakaan.

iPod menguburkan buku?

Tidak mungkin berlaku dalam masa terdekat dan ini terbukti sekiranya anda berkesempatan ke Pesta Buku Dunia Sharjah.

Pesta Buku Dunia Sharjah kali ke 27 sedang berlangsung selama 10 hari dari 29 Oktober hingga 7 November. Dianggarkan lebih dari 100,000 tajuk buku dipamirkan dengan penyertaan 491 penerbit Arab dari 18 negara dan 272 penerbit lain dari 23 negara.
Sebanyak 28,698 tajuk dalam bahasa Arab dan sebanyak 57,927 tajuk baru diperkenalkan.

Penuh sesak dengan manusia yang berhimpit-himpit untuk membeli buku. Ada yang membawa troli, buka satu, tetapi dua atau tiga!

Buku-buku bahasa Arab begitu keras lakunya dan tidak kurang buku-buku bahasa Inggeris.

Penerbitan buku di Timur tengah terus berkembang. Dua penerbit Inggeris terkenal, Random House and Harper Collins membuka pejabat di Abu Dhabi.

There’s no doubt that the current slew of superlative-filled high profile publishing events is guaranteed to please both bibliophiles and record seekers. Right now, for example, the region’s biggest children’s read-a-thon is taking place, as Dubai Cares and the book charity Room to Read aim to get three- to 14-year-olds reading, with a goal of one million books in two weeks.
Each book read is being matched by a donation of books to children in need around the world. During the campaign, which ends Nov 16, the Burj Dubai itself will record the book total, lighting up like a thermometer until the millionth book is reached and the whole tower is lit. Adults are also invited to “sponsor” a book by buying Dh10 vouchers from bookshops or the Dubai Cares website (

Next up, garnering international headlines, the tallest book in the world has been commissioned by Emaar from the luxury publisher Kraken Opus. Called Burj Dubai Opus and edited by Michael Tierney, the book will chronicle the development of the Burj Dubai and will stand 4.5m tall.
Finally, the Sharjah Book Fair this week has seen the launch of the world’s largest atlas, Earth, published by the Australian company Millennium House. The book comes as a limited edition of 2,000 royal-blue leather-bound books with silver corners, measuring 61x47cm, and just 1,000 gold-leather-bound editions with 18-carat gold corners, produced especially for the Middle East.

You could dismiss these extraordinary projects as merely commodifying learning, and there’s no doubt that the Burj Dubai Opus and Earth will be bought by rich collectors, while the gold Earth has been ordered, or “sponsored”, by some of the region’s most prestigious libraries and companies, including Dubai World’s company Leisurecorp.
But there are more beneficial consequences as well, whether it’s supporting the work of bookbinding craftsmen or helping wipe out illiteracy in developing countries. The high profile presence of these volumes – along with the ever-increasing attractions of the Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai book fairs and incursions of international publishers into the market – shows a national confidence in the enduring popularity and the universal value of the book.
At Dh14,000 for the basic royal blue version, Earth may not be available to everyone, but the Dh500 concise version sold out on day one of the Sharjah Book Fair, reflecting the trickle-down effect that can result from the spectacular publications that make headlines.
One of the most striking defences of the book is offered by John Wood, the former Microsoft executive who gave up his career to set up the charity Room to Read, which provides developing areas that are high in illiteracy with books, libraries, training and teaching.
“My view on this is simple,” Wood says. “There are scientific studies that prove nothing stimulates and develops the brain quite like reading – it completely engages the brain, whereas computers, video games and TV are very passive activities.
Reading really lights up those synapses, and the thing is, the brain is the most incredibly complex and beautiful device anywhere, so we should really stimulate children’s brains early on.”
For a man who abandoned a career in the biggest software company in the world, he takes a surprisingly back-to-basics approach.
“If you look at the world, there are 76 million children not even enrolled in school, and in the poorest populations we have to get the basics first – for a seven-year old girl in Namibia or an eight-year-old boy in Cambodia there is no access to that kind of technology. We take books for granted but there are parents around the world who would give anything to be able to give their child one book.”
Another obvious, though often overlooked, point is made by Gordon Cheers, the publisher whose 20-year dream it was to create the world’s largest atlas, which culminated in Earth.
“If the power goes out here, our search engine – we call it an index – will still work. You might have to use candlelight to look at it, but it will be there, we hope, for 500 years.
”Yet when Google Maps can provide satellite images so detailed that you can see your house online, is there really a place for an item as unwieldy as a 20kg leather-bound book in a 15kg case? For Cheers, the point is not that the information is available: it’s how it is presented and absorbed.
“What we like to think is that with the atlas we’re taking you by the hand for a journey round the world. You can dream about where you’d like to go. Atlases are so social: when people were looking at this at the Sharjah fair, they’d point first to their home town, then to one next to it and say, ‘Oh, this is where my grandparents were, and look over here, someone I know lives there, and I’ve been to this place over here’ – and before you know it you’ve spent an hour looking at a map.”
Accuracy, says Cheers, is also a key selling point. “Yes you can get all this on the internet, and there is certainly a place for the internet – my children and I use it all the time – but we still use and love books. Sometimes the kids try to do some research for a project on the internet and think, ‘Where do I start?’ There’s just so much out there. And you can’t always trust the information available: we started to use the internet to cross-check some of our facts and it’s then that you realise just how unreliable it is.”
In most literate societies, reading is not a merely functional form of communication: it’s a cultural meme and something that is passed down through generations. The high value placed on beautifully decorated Qurans was evident at the Arts of Islam exhibition at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, where illuminated Quranic texts were the highlight. Exhibitors at the Sharjah World Book Fair displayed an incredible number and variety of beautiful leather-bound, gilt-stamped Qurans.
“When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed launched the Dubai Cares read-a-thon with Room to Read on Sunday, he made the point in his speech that the first word in the Quran is ‘read’,” says Wood. “We forget that reading can be the basis of a peaceful and prosperous society.”
For Cheers, too, the giant atlas is created not only as a repository of huge, vivid images and useful politico-geographical information, but as a way of perpetuating dying skills such as bookbinding and cartography.
“I think things like Google Maps have actually made me more determined to do the book,” he says of his quest. “What’s happening now is that cartographers are becoming like watchmakers – new cartographers aren’t being trained, so they’re really, really rare.
”With so many people going to the internet in search of map, Cheers posits that Earth may be the last big atlas ever published.“I’ve got two young children, and I will hand this book down to them and hopefully in 500 years people will still be leafing through it. People aren’t going to hand a hard drive down to their children each year. It will be an heirloom.”
Certainly, this is objectification of a book as something that Cheers calls a “time capsule”, that others might call art and that many will no doubt term an investment. But as long as certain books remain valuable, prestigious and newsworthy, there will remain an interest in the paperbacks, the fiction, the self-help tomes, the text books and the lush coffee-table books that are the bread and butter of the publishing industry.

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