Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

Read between the lines: how to make the most of the Abu Dhabi book fair

After covering this event for nearly a decade, we share five tips on how to enjoy the experience properly

The space is huge, with the fair taking over about a dozen halls in Adnec, so it’s best to arrive with a minimum of two hours up your sleeve so you don’t miss a thing. Pawan Singh / The National
The space is huge, with the fair taking over about a dozen halls in Adnec, so it’s best to arrive with a minimum of two hours up your sleeve so you don’t miss a thing. Pawan Singh / The National

With the Abu Dhabi ­International Book Fair up and running, book-lovers and culture vultures should revel in the activities and the hundreds of thousands of books on sale at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

This is what makes book fairs stand out from literary festivals. While the latter is more concerned with exclusive discussions, a book fair is a more unwieldy event. It is basically one big party that everyone is invited to: authors shed light on the meaning behind their works; publishers have business meetings in the corners of rooms as they attempt to nail down translation rights; librarians attend conferences where they hear the latest technological developments on cataloguing; and illustrators and artists thrill the public by creating work on the spot.

With so much to take in before the fair ends on Tuesday, here are my five top tips on how to make the most of it.

Give yourself plenty of time

The space is huge, with the fair taking over about a dozen halls in Adnec, so it’s best to arrive with a minimum of two hours up your sleeve so you don’t miss a thing. You should be able to savour the literary atmosphere and walk past the various stands hosting publishing houses from across the world. Many of these companies have come to the capital with special offers and may even give free copies of certain titles.

Keep your eyes open

This is not so much a safety warning as a tip for star spotting. The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair doesn’t have a green room where authors can chill after they have finished their sessions or events. For the most part, they have to leave the venue to get any ­privacy. This means you may see people such as best-­selling Nigerian novelist and poet Ben Okri, or Lebanon’s Hoda Barakat, who this week won the ­International Prize for Arabic Fiction, wandering around the halls. This is a great chance to grab an autograph and a selfie.

Visit the Al Multaqa lounge

This is the intellectual heart of the book fair. The beautifully decorated lounge, located beside the main stage, is designed to resemble a literary salon. It has its own programme of speakers and is a great chance to hear authors discuss their work away from the large crowds. They also offer free, delicious servings of various blends of karak.

Come with cash

Not every bookstall is the same. While the more high-profile companies use card machines, many of the smaller vendors (who arguably have the more interesting books) only accept cash. Fortunately, ADNEC has several ATMs available in various sections of the book fair.

Return on the last day

This could be your chance to grab a bargain. Eager to sell excess stock, some vendors could slash the prices by up to 50 per cent. This rule applies to the smaller publishing houses, especially. Try to barter a better deal, such as buy-one-get-one-free. When it comes to the popular English bookstalls, you will probably find the shelves an absolute mess because of the frenzied sales. Be patient, dig deeper, and you may well be rewarded with a top title or two to pop on your bookshelf.

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair runs until Tuesday at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. More information is at www.adbookfair.com

Updated: April 25, 2019 06:06 PM

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