x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair marks another successful year

With local authors, award-winners and shopping, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was a crowd pleaser.

Attendees browse books at this year's Abu Dhabi International Book Fair at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
Attendees browse books at this year's Abu Dhabi International Book Fair at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

The curtains have drawn on what was another bumper edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Literature lovers, authors, publishers and the curious descended on the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre for six days of panel discussions, workshops, poetry readings and good old-fashioned shopping.

Those who think bookworms are meek in the shopping stakes would have done a double take as families found innovative ways to carry their new-found books, among them a makeshift trolley.

The choice of books browsed by would-be shoppers was wide and varied.

Pages from the Encyclopaedia of Ecology, Heat Conduction Using Green's Function and the Metal Fatigue Handbook were flipped through with as much interest as re-editions of the Twilight series.

Those feigning interest in a title would be set upon by a small army of eager salesmen, whose sales technique was finely tuned and adaptable to all situations.

"Improve your English, sir?" asked Sabr Mohammed from a small technology publisher.

Upon learning my journalistic trade, he implored me that I should purchase his "special" photography computer programme.

"You have to multitask," he chided. "You just can't stick to words, you know."

With more than 900 exhibitors, the fair had the atmosphere of a bazaar; even small stalls had authors either signing autographs or giving small impromptu talks to enthusiastic readers.

In many cases, the authors themselves were among the most enthusiastic shoppers.

Award-winners, including the International Prize for Arabic Fiction nominee Taj El Sir, strolled through the crowds.

The Emirati poet Adel Khozan was also spotted browsing through new titles. He was right in describing the fair as a "yearly marriage" for the Emirati community.

Local authors and publishers were out in force displaying their literary flair across all facets of the publishing industry.

At the Discussion Sofa on Friday, Professor Fatima Hamad Al Mazrouei spoke of her latest literary venture as a children's author. This year alone, she published two children's books, a literary feat far removed from other authored works focusing on pre-Islamic literature.

Al Mazrouei said children's fiction had its own challenges and required a colourful mindset as opposed to the detached approach of academia.

"You almost have to think like a child in a way," she explained."While I think it is important to place positive messages in books, sometimes we think that it should be direct as opposed to it being fun to read. I find that children, even us as adults, don't like being advised directly. So in one of my stories I wrote it in a more playful way as opposed to it being one long text."

On the other end of the writing spectrum was the Dubai author and media specialist Mahmood Rahma. He took part in the fair to launch his debut Arabic book News Gathering in Satellite Channels.

What distinguishes his book from other media-studies texts is the scope.

He ambitiously starts his book by discussing the gathering of information in ancient Greek times before moving to ultra modern organisations such as Al Jazeera.

The public's ever-increasing hunger for news at quick speed, contends Rahma, has created faulty practices in news gathering, something that he has seen first-hand in working in various media organisations internationally.

Rahma said the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair's longevity was due to its ability to find and cultivate local talent.

"They care about the local authors and local residents," he said. "I have been to many festivals but in Abu Dhabi, this is what they do best."

However, Rahma says, while international publishers and authors may come here to sample the local culture, Emirati writers should strive to travel abroad to develop their world outlook.

"The nationals don't go abroad except to study or [be] diplomats," he said. "In my case, I travelled because I loved media and I went globally. We have intelligent people here and we have to show that to the world. They need support and they have support. We are opening our minds more."

A similar message resounded among local international publishing executives.

At Friday's Digital Publishing round-table, regional publishers were warned to be open to the technological developments sweeping the publishing industry.

"A few years ago, nobody believed people would read online," said Al Manhal Publishing chief executive Mohammed Al Baghdadi. "Today, the e-book industry has evolved around the world.

"The world has changed with the creation of the tablets such as iPads, and Kindle. Today, more and more people are downloading e-books."

sasaeed@thenational.ae

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