x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

$10 million book fair hailed as a triumph

Six-day event welcomed 236,000 visitors and 840 publishers from 63 countries - and book sales were highest ever at Dh37 million.

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair at Adnec was a treasure trove for bookworms.
The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair at Adnec was a treasure trove for bookworms.

ABU DHABI // It was an event for publishers and authors of renown, but also for children filling book bags and bookworms stocking libraries. The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was a kaleidoscope of literary activity during its six-day run, which ended yesterday, and if a many-faceted event is a mark of quality, the celebration of reading at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre was a triumph.

"So many things went well," said Monika Krauss, the general manager of Kitab, the fair's organiser. "I have only had good feedback." Organisers are calling the 20th year of the book fair the biggest ever, with 236,000 visitors, 840 publishers from 63 countries and Dh37 million (US$10m) in total sales. Ms Krauss cited the first-time presence of a number of art-book publishers and the increased number of visitors as highlights of the event. Meeting the Algerian writer Anouar Benmalek, one of her favourite authors, was a personal one for her.

"This is my first full run through the book fair and now I have to sit down with my team and go over what we liked and didn't like and what we can do better next year. But apart from working on little things I am pleased overall," she said. Earlier in the week, twofour54, Abu Dhabi's media zone, signed a global publishing deal with Macmillan Children's Books to create a series of Driver Dan's Story Train books in Arabic and English. The first independent distribution company for Arabic books was also launched.

Kitab also unveiled a private members association for the literary community the Abu Dhabi Literature and Publishers Club. Conceived by Ms Krauss, the club will hold regular meetings for author readings, panel discussions and exhibitions related to books. It "is part of our long-term strategy", said Ms Krauss. "We want to develop a community of book-lovers and readers here in the Emirates. We want Abu Dhabi to become a hub for books and culture and think the club can be an important part of the transformation."

Qalam, a platform specifically for Emirati writers, was also given a boost. The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage initiative aimed at encouraging and publishing Emirati novels and works had 20 titles published for the book fair, all from new authors. Ali Abu al Reesh, the director of Qalam, said the titles had been well-received. "They have had a good reception from everyone that visited the stand during the fair," he said. "People are very interested in new novels from Emirati writers, especially as the general perception is that we don't have any novelists."

Mr al Reesh, who is a daily columnist for Al Ittihad newspaper and a published novelist, said many aspiring writers had approached the stand. "We've have many young people, especially girls, visit the stand and ask about Qalam," he said. "Writers usually don't want to deal with government establishments but Qalam is breaking down those boundaries; we are getting through to them." The books will be available via the emirate's mobile library service Kitab Bus and at Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Co-op and Al Wahda Mall.

Ms Krauss said she hoped that next year there would be even more educational material for children and more diversification of cultural and social events. "We want to work on the Creativity Corner, moving away from entertainment and focusing more on education," she said. @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae