Booksellers and publishers in Egypt are re-opening their doors with "excitement about a new era in publishing" after the country’s revolution. Some publishers and booksellers became targets after supporters of the former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, attacked symbols of democracy and freedom of speech in 18 days of protest.
On 3rd February, The Bookseller reported that the International Publishers Association’s vice-president Ibrahim El Moallem was under siege at his Al Shorouk publishing headquarters near Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where the protestors' hub was based.
The American University of Cairo (AUC) Press Bookstore in Tahrir Square was forced to shut its doors after sustaining damage during rioting, and because access to the shop was near impossible. However the store re-opened its doors for the first time this weekend.
Trevor Naylor, associate director of sales, marketing and distribution at AUC Press, said the atmosphere was one of elation. "Many Egyptian stores opened up again on Sunday for the first time, the atmosphere is absolutely wonderful not least because the Egyptians themselves are happy about the change. For a long time we had armoured tanks parked outside the store. There was no point in opening because no one could get in—and when there are one million people outside your door you do get a little nervous.
"We are hopeful now that what has happened will have a positive effect on education, and publishers and booksellers will have more freedom to sell books. There will also be so many stories people will want to tell about what has happened here—that will mean more books."
Naylor was also optimistic about the forthcoming Tahrir Square book fair, to take place at the end of March—an event which has emerged from the ashes of the cancelled Cairo Book Fair. The event is programmed to include thousands of books from Egypt and abroad, as well as author signings and seminars. Naylor said: "Everyone around the globe now associates Tahrir Square with freedom and revolution, we really wanted to do something that celebrates what happened here, and this seems like a great way to do it."
The day before Mubarak resigned as the Egyptian President on 11th February, the International Publishers Association issued a joint statement with the Egyptian Publishers Association (EPA) calling for an independent Cairo book fair, "free of interference".
Bjorn Smith-Simonsen, chair of IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee, also said: "All publishers call on Egyptian authorities to protect Egyptian and foreign journalists, writers and publishers and publishing houses in the exercise of their work, to formally end any form of restrictions on book importation and circulation in Egypt."