The 38th edition of the International Istanbul Book Fair concluded its nine-day run on November 10. Co-organized by Tuyap Fairs and Exhibitions Organization and the Turkish Publishers Association, the event hosted 800 exhibitors, 605,000 visitors, and over 300 activities.

A mostly trade fair that focused on selling books to readers of all ages, it attracted overseas exhibitors keen to sell rights (and books). The international hall saw representatives from 15 countries, including Austria (Wieser Verlag), China (China Educational Publications Import & Export Corporation), Germany (Carlsen), and Italy (Sandro Teti Editore). Author Tess Gerritsen (of the Rizzoli & Isles series) was at the fair signing book while journalist Pilar del Rio flew in to talk about her husband, author and Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago. There was a video-conference call with author David North to discuss his book about socialism and Leon Trotsky, while organizations such as the North Macedonian Culture Center and the Goethe-Institut held talks on Balkan and German literature, respectively.

The fair’s theme, “The ‘50s Generation in Literature”, threw the spotlight on authors of those years while singling out Adnan Ozyalciner as the author of honor. Various panels were held to discuss the impact of the 1950s generation on literature, theatre, book and periodical publishing, storytelling, and poetry.

At the opening ceremony attended by Turkey’s Minister of Culture and Tourism and various officials, International Publishers Association (IPA) president Hugo Setzer talked about the importance of copyright, freedom to publish, accessibility, and the value of publishers in bringing trustworthy information to the public, especially in the current world full of disinformation. “We as publishers can be proud of our profession, proud to be able to contribute to humankind by making available all kinds of books. Let us continue to enlighten the world with the books we publish,” said Setzer at the conclusion of his speech. Turkish Publishers Association president Kenan Kocaturk, on the hand, mentioned the candidacy of Istanbul as UNESCO World Book Capital 2022, thus creating much excitement among the attending officials and audience.

The Turkish Publishers Association (which is also the only IPA member from Turkey) organized many of the events, including “A Global Look at the Publishing Sector” with Setzer and secretary-general Jose Borghino from IPA that was moderated by Kocaturk. Other sessions covered steps on making indie bookstores sustainable (using Germany as the case study), the role of books in establishing reading culture in the educational system, the direction of Arabic literature, and research results on the current reading culture in Turkey.

One of the fair’s major highlights was the Freedom of Thought and Expression Award ceremony. Given out annually by the Turkish Publishers Association since 1995 to those unafraid to express their thoughts—and with the hopes that Turkey will soon reach the universal standards of freedom of thought and expression—this year’s award went to authors Baris Pehlivan and Baris Terkoglu, publisher Avesta Yayinlari, and Ozan Sanatevi (Bandirma) bookstore.

While the International Istanbul Book Fair is not on most overseas publishers’ calendar, the size of the country’s book market is attracting more attention: $1.3 billion in value and #16 in the world ranking (down from #11 in 2018). Its publishers sold about 580 million copies of books and published 67,135 new titles last year. With a population of 83.8 million and 1.3 million newborns annually, the Turkish book market is expanding steadily.

After its turn as the guest of honor at the 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair and then as the market focus at the London Book Fair five years later, Turkey’s writers and book industry are traveling beyond its shores. The rest of the world is getting to know more Turkish authors than just Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak, Zulfu Livaneli, and Aytul Akal in recent years.

(With additional information and figures provided by the Turkish Publishers Association.)