I was very excited about this year’s Malta Book Festival, and the unusual jitters I got right before the event started faded as soon as the Festival opened its doors to the public on Wednesday last week. For the first time, the Book Festival at the Mediterranean Conference Centre had double the exhibition space as compared to last year.
Separate halls were allocated to publishers and booksellers, thus allowing us to make the exhibition space twice as large. We had already hit record sales and attendance in 2015, which have been kept ever since, but this year the Festival registered yet another exponential increase in its visitor numbers.
It is with pride that I say that this year the National Book Council has once again reached its targets. The Malta Book Festival was marked by new records thanks to the hard work of the Council’s team and of course of all the participants, who contributed to making this year’s edition a success. We will keep moving in the direction we have taken.
The Malta Book Fair was changed into the Malta Book Festival in 2013 in order to give it a new life, and today the Festival has acquired the prestigious status of one of the most important annual events on the island. The event is meant, first and foremost, to help publishers increase their source of revenue in a time when bookstores are increasingly adding food, drinks and gadgets to their bookshelves.
If publishers do well, so do authors, and booksellers play an important role in the process. The National Book Council always encourages their participation in the Malta Book Festival, and this time round some booksellers actually increased their sales despite having their exhibition space moved to a different location.
Besides its commercial aspect, the Festival is all about learning, culture and entertainment. The Malta Book Festival provides a genuine cheerful atmosphere to its visitors and book buying becomes a social and cultural experience. The ever-growing number of events and authors (local and international) participating in the Festival is among others a key ingredient that makes it truly special.
The number of schools participating in the morning activities has also increased over the years, reaching its all-time records during this edition. The Festival aims at complementing the education system by making sure that children see books and knowledge as fun, and not necessarily as the instruments of a rigid school system. The National Book Council takes pride in witnessing this change of direction, and in looking at children picking up books, exploring new worlds, learning – and actually enjoying it.
We are driven by a passion for books, and our commitment is to see that our society improves by ensuring the children of today keep reading tomorrow when they are adults. This is the future the National Book Council strives to build. We may well have a rapid economic growth and various booming industries, but society can never develop fully unless people read.
It is for this reason that the Government is taking the work of the National Book Council very seriously. Never before has the book industry received such strong and direct support from the Government and I am confident the Government will continue in this direction. The overall success of the Malta Book Festival is not only due to the National Book Council’s work, but also to a genuine increased interest in books and culture.