Bringing science to citizens at the Lima International Book Fair

27 February 2023

The Lima International Book Fair (FIL) has established itself as the most relevant publishing industry space in Peru. And, for the Editorial Fund of the Universidad del Pacífico, it’s when the greatest number of sales are made in the year. 

The FIL allows us to bring our production closer to non-academic audiences, comprising people who are interested in our research. We wouldn’t be able to reach this audience through other channels, e.g., academic events. It’s an annual event so, as publishers, we can plan ahead to ensure that we have new titles to launch at the fair.

Some popular publications at the book fair 

Among the titles that had the most impact was Armed Conflict in Peru. The era of terrorism under international law, by Alonso Gurmendi. In this publication, the author set out to answer a specific question: Was the era of terrorism an armed conflict, or not? Gurmendi aimed to answer this from the perspective of international humanitarian law. The great virtue of this work was that the analysis and exposition were written for non-specialist readers. So, you don’t need to be a lawyer or a human rights specialist to understand it. Also, it focused on a controversial issue that concerns all Peruvians.

Another academic author who ‘popularises’ ideas, is Carlos Parodi. Parodi is a professor who’s known for making economic concepts easy and understandable – as non-economists generally consider these concepts to be encrypted, difficult, and inaccessible. He also has a strong media presence (television, social networks, and written and digital press). At FIL, the public can access Parodi’s new publications. But they’re also able to meet him, get a signed copy, and even take a picture with him.

In 2020, FIL was virtual, due to the pandemic. It wasn’t possible to organise face-to-face events, let alone one as massive as FIL. That year, we were surprised when one of our titles turned out to be the best seller: Peruvian Families. More families than you can imagine, by Urpi Torrado and Carla Pennano. Traditionally in Peru, when thinking about or developing marketing campaigns around families, the focus has always been on one type of family: with a father, mother, and children. But this stereotype only represents a quarter of the families in Peru. As a consequence of this biased approach, the particularities of other types of families are overlooked in public policy formulation and marketing plans. This publication is also engaging and accessible as it’s in a large format, in full colour, and has a friendly design. Also, it uses photos from the research and infographics to help the readers understand the information.

Another title that was very well-received during the FIL was Approaches to Peru today from the social sciences, edited by Felipe Portocarrero and Alberto Vergara. The editors conceived the publication to focus on the various transformations that the country had undergone in recent times, and to bring academia closer to the citizens. These objectives meant that they used accessible language and avoided ‘academicisms’.

The great potential of book fairs

A huge amount of people who are interested in both new fiction and non-fiction content congregate at book fairs. As publishers of the latter, for us, book fairs have great potential as spaces for discussion between experts and citizens. In these spaces they can discuss issues relevant to national affairs. They’re also spaces where we can find a confluence of publishing houses at one event – which doesn’t normally happen.

To make these spaces successful, an investment of funds is required. These funds should be directed towards the communication and dissemination of the research. This includes a focus on language and presentation beyond the classic book format to engage non-academic audiences – e.g., digital campaigns and audiovisual products. 

The objective of these meeting spaces is not just to sell books, but also to promote the exchange of ideas and the democratisation of knowledge. These spaces can stimulate people to learn more about a particular topic. And, in the long run, they can result in more responsible and committed citizens.