WHEN Johannes Gutenberg invented the moveable-type printing press, the transfer of knowledge and intellect became faster and easier, and the world became everyone’s alternate, portable reality.

Fast forward to a whole new era of digital media, Gutenberg’s dream of a handheld world took on more compact forms. In this generation of laptops and palm readers, it seems as if writing and publishing have lost its bravado, but apparently, this is not entirely so.

The 33rd installment of the Manila International Book Fair proved that books and their technological counterparts can live in glorious, page-turning harmony. Held at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City from September 12 to 16, the affair drew a substantial crowd of students, professionals, and reading enthusiasts of all sorts.

Publishing house, ‘write’ on top

The UST Publishing House, awarded Publisher of the Year in 2011 in the National Book Awards, has yet again caught the eyes of the reading public with its new titles and surprise book-signing events.

Former Publishing House director Christina Pantoja-Hidalgo dropped in on the last day to sign copies of her new book, Stella and Other Friendly Ghosts, featured along with the press’s new books: After the Body Displaces Water, a collection of short stories by Merlie Alunan, University of the Philippines Professor Emeritus; Halos Isang Buhay: Ang Manananggal sa Pagsulat ng Nobela by Palanca Award recipient Edgar Samar; and Isa Lang ang Pangalan, a poetry collection by Rebecca Añonuevo.

The UST booth also showcased the Publishing House’s well-regarded new textbooks on language and the sciences, natural and social—regarded as their “bread and butter” by the new deputy director, Alil Alvarez. According to her, their textbooks mainly catch the attention of school libraries and are sought out by provincial academics.

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Bickering over the budget

Self-publishing

Meanwhile, literary critic Isagani Cruz lectured in front of a crowd of interested writers on book writing and self-publishing.

Held simultaneously with the last day of the book fair, Cruz partnered with Central Books Publishing in their attempt to make the publishing process accessible to the public.

“The first thing to remember is that we are not alone,” he said. “Everyone can write a book because we all have books in our heads.”

Cruz underscored the importance of discipline throughout the entire process of writing and publishing.

He warned writers of self-editing, saying that one should “not rewrite, no matter what” and added that they should just keep on going.

“The first drafts are your terrible pages, under no circumstance should you show it to anyone,” Cruz said.

He also said that writers have the freedom to begin writing anywhere in his book, whether it is in the start or somewhere in the middle.

“Write anywhere in the book, never start with page one, you’ll never finish,” he said.

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