The largest book fair in the Philippines is back at the SMX Convention Center and it’s once again teeming with books, discounts, and people. On its first day, the Menagerie decided to send an advance scout to hunt for books and survey the scene for signs of book burners and E-books (E for electronically-evil).
The relatively crowded vicinity of the SMX Convention center gave me fears of an afternoon that might include shoving, wriggling, and maneuvering, but after paying the twenty peso entrance fee, I was ushered into the main hall of SMX and reminded of how big it actually was: there might have been a thousand or more people in there already, but the venue could more than accommodate that number.
The hall was partitioned according to the publisher/store. The two big stores, National Book Store and Fully Booked, were stationed near the center of the hall, and had the largest booths. With regards to book selection, it was more or less the same books you’d find in their main branches after restocking; however, it was the discounted prices that made the trip worth it.
PowerBooks was notably absent, possibly signaling its waning presence in book retail.
The major players in local publishing, from Anvil Publishing to PSICOM, were also present. Anvil Publishing might have had the next largest booth to the big two, and it also had one of the larger discount rates. The booth of Summit Media had its complete catalog of magazines.
The publications of different universities, notably the University of the Philippines Press, University of Santo Tomas Press, and Ateneo De Manila University Press had their own booths with works on literature, history, and the academic genres. UP Press’ short story anthologies make it attractive to book aficionados.
In the three hours I spent trying to cover the entire event space, I found children’s books that had art straight out of my childhood, the classic Pugad Baboy, dentistry books, agriculture books, college test reviewers, bibles, books written in Spanish, romance pocketbooks that looked like the print equivalent of telenovelas, artsy-fartsy books, videogame art (particularly The Last of Us, Megaman, and Okami), paranormal books (by Jaime Licauco), more textbooks than any single college bookstore, new and used books, educational DVD’s, not-so-educational DVD’s (unless Rambo is educational), magazines, and self-help books from Ramon Bautista. Book worms might like to know that these all contributed to the new book smell that pervaded the venue.
The mixed crowd was a welcome sight. There were professionals looking for textbooks, school officials hoarding books (I almost deprived an entire high school of Homer’s Iliad after I unknowingly picked it up from their pile – so be careful where you pick up your books!), teachers looking to further their education, young kids pulling shopping baskets brimming with books; simply a lot of different folks pursuing the quiet joys of reading.
Throughout the book fair, there will also be books signings by different authors, lectures, and forums.
And with different people come different conversations. So what type of conversations occur in a book fair?
“I’ve already finished this series.”
“Hindi theologian si Dan Brown. Fiction siya” (Dan Brown is not a theologian. He is a fiction writer).”
“This is the best way to teach…”
“….First-world in a third-world country….”
If books aren’t your thing, then eavesdropping on different conversations is another (unofficial) activity the MIBF has to offer.
You are what you read
Maybe 50 percent (unofficial estimate) of the booths were devoted to bibles and other religious literature. Publishers such as the Catholic Book Center and the Philippine Bible Study offered bibles of different sizes, colors, and editions, and these booths always had a constant stream of people. Needless to say, religion really does have an active presence in Filipino culture.
I also spotted Manny Pacquiao books as much as I did Rizal books. What that might mean is up for interpretation.
Despite the rise of electronic media, it’s looking like the MIBF will have another successful year. And it doesn’t seem as though it’ll get any smaller. As I was leaving the venue, I overheard a man inquiring about how to put up a booth next year.
Indeed, print is alive and well. And it can be cheap, too, if you decide to make the trip to SMX.
The MIBF runs from September 11 – 15 and is open from 10:00 am – 8:00 pm.