Baku Book Center strives to create vibrant literary community [EXCLUSIVE]
Step into a library or a bookstore, and you'll find yourself surrounded by a multitude of books. Each one beckons you, promising to transport you to different realms.
Baku Book Center offers a diverse collection of literature that caters to readers of all ages and preferences. Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, the center has managed to adapt and continue its operations successfully, achieving its goals of promoting reading, engaging readers, and providing access to books.
Today, the center continues to organize literary, educational, and cultural events, including book releases, meetings with writers, and other activities to engage and delight visitors.
In an interview with AZERNEWS, the Baku Book Center's PR manager, Nigar Huseynova provided an in-depth overview of the activities of the Baku Book Center, readers' preferences, the Baku Book Fair, and the state of the book market in Azerbaijan.
Q: How would you evaluate the recent activities of the Baku Book Center? What specific goals have been accomplished in the past years?
A: Recent years have been quite unpredictable for the Baku Book
Center. The year 2020 went down in the history of Azerbaijan as the
year of the historic victory in the 44-day Patriotic War, the year
of the liberation of Garabagh and seven districts from almost 30
years of occupation. But for the whole world, 2020 and the
subsequent 2021 are the years of the pandemic and lockdowns. Of
course, they did not bypass Azerbaijan either. The book industry
has faced significant challenges during the pandemic, including the
closure of brick-and-mortar stores and supply chain disruptions.
Despite this, book sales at the Baku Book Center have not
To reduce risks to people and help stop the spread of coronavirus, most employees have been transferred to remote work. But even under these conditions, the work of the Baku Book Center did not stop for a single day. We continued selling online and organized a delivery service.
The Baku Book Center received quite a lot of orders, constantly responded to messages, held various discount promotions, webinars on promoting reading for young people, and regularly advertised book products on social networks. The center even managed to launch two projects for children: a competition for the best drawing, "Evdə qalmağın xeyri" (Benefits of staying home) and an essay competition "Coronavirusdan sonrakı həyat" (Life after Coronavirus). Launched in 2021, the literary competition "Cənnətim Qarabağ" (My paradise is Garabagh) became a kind of tribute of gratitude to all those thanks to whom we won and regained Garabagh. So, if you look back, we can say with confidence that the Book Center team withstood the trials of those years with dignity.
Over the past two years, the work of the Baku Book Center has continued as usual; we are trying to delight our visitors with new book releases, meetings with writers, and other literary, educational, and cultural events.
Q: Can you highlight any particular projects initiated by the Baku Book Center that have garnered significant attention?
A: Speaking about the most successful projects, I would like to dwell on the educational project "YÜKSƏL" (Rise Up), implemented with the financial support of bp Azerbaijan. The project was designed for one year to help students and young people identify areas for development and professional growth, expand their intellectual abilities and personal qualities, and gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. As part of the project, lectures on various topics were organized at the Baku Book Center. Experts in various fields were involved in the project. Students from various universities, colleges, and interested youth were invited as listeners, depending on the topic. At the end of each lecture, each participant, presenting a student ID, received free books recommended by the lecturer. This project has become one of the most successful since the existence of the center.
Q: How does the Baku Book Center gather information about reading preferences? Are there any ongoing statistical studies conducted in this regard?
A: Social networks and the Internet in general provide a huge opportunity to study the latest trends in the book industry. We carefully monitor various resources that provide information and recommendations about literary trends, new book releases, and the most popular authors. We are regular visitors to the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, where almost all of the world's largest publishing houses and literary agencies are represented. In addition, we learn about the preferences of our visitors from sales consultants. Also, there is a section on Baku Book Center's website titled Ordering books, through which users indicate which books they would like to see on the shelves of the center.
Q: What books are the most popular choices?
A: We order books from the largest publishing houses in Russia, Turkiye, Great Britain, France, Germany, and other countries based on market requirements. Genre preferences change depending on the age of readers, and other factors, such as language, also play a role. Among the best-selling books in Russian are books in the fantasy and horror genres. This year there were no noticeable peaks of interest in any genre. As in previous years, books on psychology, self-development, classics, novels by contemporary writers, children's books, and detective stories remain very popular. Readers stopped buying thick books, preferring books with fast-paced plots.
Q: Baku Book Center participated in the Baku International Book Fair. From your perspective, what role does this book fair play in enriching public education?
A: The Baku International Book Fair is the largest in the region. The Baku Book Center participated in this event for the third time. Every year the book fair never ceases to amaze readers with new initiatives.The fair program includes various events in different formats, including book presentations, meetings with acclaomed local and foreign writers and master classes. All this is a positive, favorable sign. A pleasant fact is the participation of a large number of local publishers. This year, books of various genres in Azerbaijani, Turkish, English and Russian were presented at the stand of the Baku Book Center. A large place was devoted to children's literature. I would like to note the book of the famous English writer Charlie Mackesy "The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse", translated into Azerbaijani. This book became the best-selling book at this year's book fair. To this day, it remains a bestseller around the world. The book tells the story of a boy and his three friends - a mole, a fox and a horse. The conversations between four friends give readers an insight into the best human qualities. Last year, an animated film based on this book was awarded the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.
Q: What are your thoughts on the current state of the book market in Azerbaijan?
A: In recent years, book production has seen a big leap both in terms of the content of books and their printing quality. In addition to large publishing houses, many small ones have appeared in Azerbaijan, but if we evaluate it as a whole, there are not many publishing houses actually competing in the market, their activities are mostly spontaneous, and we are increasingly seeing a lack of any coordination in their activities. Prices are rising, purchasing power is falling. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to allocate money in their family budget to purchase books. The active development of the Internet, reading aids, smartphones, and mobile Internet plays a significant role. Almost 85 percent of the Azerbaijani population uses the Internet and can read books in electronic formats.
Q: Could you share any insights into the projects and events that the Baku Book Center plans to undertake in the upcoming months?
A: Baku Book Center functions not only as a
bookstore but also as a cultural space. We have a very busy
program; events dedicated to literature and music are held almost
every week. We had many different projects that, after existing for
a couple of years, were closed simply because any project has both
a beginning and an end. But old projects are being replaced by many
new ones. Information about them can be obtained from our social
networks and website.
To attract public attention to reading, to achieve minimum prices for books, and to be able to update the assortment as often as possible - this is what we strive for. Our work is aimed at increasing the role of books in the life of every person.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @lmntypewriterrr
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