Dr Bokova’s decision follows the recommendation of the WBCC Advisory Committee, which comprises IPA, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and UNESCO representatives.

Sharjah was picked for its innovative, comprehensive and inclusive bid, which offered a community-focused programme of proposals to engage all sections of society, including the large immigrant population. The programme will also coincide with the launch of Sharjah Publishing City, a space dedicated to publishing and printing. Unprecedented in the region, it will be purpose-built to meet the needs of publishing stakeholders and to strengthen the book industry by encouraging the production and dissemination of publications across the Arab world.

IPA President Michiel Kolman said: ‘Sharjah has emerged as a regional beacon of culture and literature. Under the visionary leadership of Bodour bint Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, who is a member of the IPA Executive Committee, the Emirates Publishers Association has gone from strength to strength, giving ever greater attention to literacy and reading. Sharjah is a deserving winner, and I am sure it will deliver a stunning programme in 2019.’

Sharjah Book Fair web

The World Book Capital initiative was originally proposed in 1996 by former IPA President Pere Vicens as a way of celebrating and promoting literacy and reading culture. Today its core objective remains to make books and reading universally accessible and to inculcate a universal love of the written word.

Each year, the city named World Book Capital commits to promote books and reading and to implement a programme of activities for 12 months, starting on World Book and Copyright Day, on 23 April.

Sharjah is the 19th World Book Capital city, and follows in the footsteps of Madrid (2001); Alexandria (2002); New Delhi (2003); Antwerp (2004); Montreal (2005); Turin (2006); Bogota (2007); Amsterdam (2008); Beirut (2009); Ljubljana (2010); Buenos Aires (2011); Yerevan (2012); Bangkok (2013); Port Harcourt (2014); Incheon (2015); Wroclaw (2016); Conakry (2017); and Athens (2019).