2019 Taipei book fair kicks off with emphasis on freedom and democracy

At the opening of the Taipei International Book Exhibition on Feb. 12, Taiwan's vice president encouraged people to help promote democracy through reading

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Vice President Chen Chien-jen (3rd-left), Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun, and the German Representative to Taiwan, Thomas Prinze, open the 2019 Taipe

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (3rd-left), Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun, and the German Representative to Taiwan, Thomas Prinze, open the 2019 Taipe

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (center) opens the 2019 Taipei International Book Exhibition on Jan. 12 (Source: CNA)

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (center) opens the 2019 Taipei International Book Exhibition on Jan. 12 (Source: CNA)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — At the opening of the 2019 Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) Tuesday, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) called on people in Taiwan and Germany, the guest of honor for this year’s book fair, to further cultural exchanges and preserve democratic values through reading.

Both Taiwan and Germany have experienced challenges on their path to transition to democratic countries over the past decades, said Vice President Chen. He emphasized how important it is for people from both nations to broaden their horizons, engage in social exchange, and cherish their hard-earned free and democratic societies through the habit of reading.

Quoting President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) New Year’s address in which she considers it vital to persevere on the path of democracy, Marla Stukenberg, regional director of the Goethe-Institute in East Asia, said a commitment to democratic principles and freedom of speech are of the greatest relevance to the book exhibition.

TIBE opens a great window of opportunity for Germany and Taiwan to collaborate in literary and cultural fields, said Stukenberg, adding that she looks forward to seeing such collaboration and partnership taken to the next level during the book fair.

Considering it “a national security and societal problem” when people in a nation stop reading, James Chao (趙政岷), chairman of the Taipei Book Fair Foundation, said he hopes to push forward a “cultural renaissance” of reading. He also encouraged people to show solidarity and to support the publishing industry, which is facing challenges brought about by technology and digitalization.

With 735 exhibitors and publishing houses from 52 countries participating in TIBE this year, the chairman anticipates that a record high number of visitors will take part in the six-day event celebrating books and reading.

TIBE offers an excellent opportunity for the German and Taiwanese publishing sectors to strengthen their ties and serves as an important platform for global networking and dialogue, said Juergen Boos, president of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The organization, along with the German Institute in Taipei and the Goethe-Institute in Taipei, is responsible for the program at the German pavilion.

Publishing houses have a special responsibility when it comes to helping people form political opinions and participate in politics at young ages. The interest that Taiwan’s publishers have shown particularly in German non-fiction and children’s books is a sign that those publishers are taking this responsibility seriously, added Boos.