Book fairs have been around for as long as there’s been a publishing industry. Much like any other sector, trade fairs are a time to pool knowledge, demonstrate innovations, and, most importantly, to buy and sell. Here are seven of the biggest and best.
1. The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair
Held annually, this is one of the newer events among the big book fairs in the literary calendar. It’s organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage in association with the Frankfurt Book Fair as part of the Emirates’ attempt to become a major global destination of the publishing world. It’s a vital event for negotiating the sale of rights and licensing and is the pre-eminent event for Arabic language, Middle Eastern, and North African publishers.
2. BookExpo America (BEA)
Unlike most book fairs, the BEA moves around the country. It’s the largest annual book trade event in the USA and lasts for four days. While its location changes from year to year, it’s always held in a major city during early summer. It started life as the American Booksellers Association Convention and Trade Show in 1947, and it features virtually every significant US publisher, along with many from elsewhere. It’s frequented by buyers for book retailers, as well as librarians and authors.
3. Frankfurt Book Fair
This is the big one. The Frankfurt Book Fair (aka Buchmesse) is the world’s largest trade fair for books based on the number of exhibitors. It tends to be buzzing in visitor numbers too. It’s held each year in October with trade-only days and public events during its five-day run. There are usually about seven thousand exhibitors from over a hundred countries with more than a quarter of a million visitors, making it one of the most important events in the literary calendar. This is no surprise, as the fair can trace its origins back to the earliest days of printing in the fifteenth century!
4. Guadalajara International Book Fair
The Mexican city of Guadalajara hosts the principal event for Spanish-language publishing. The FIL (Feria Internacional del Libro) is intended to provide the best trading environment for book industry professionals as well as the reading public. Hosted by the University of Guadalajara, the fair has been held every year since 1987 and now fills up an impressive 40,000 m2 of space at the city’s exhibition centre. It runs for nine days, usually in late November and early December.
5. The Hong Kong Book Fair
Usually held in July, the first Hong Kong Book Fair took place in 1990. It’s organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and is Asia’s biggest book fair. It’s a major event in Hong Kong, with visitor numbers growing year on year. The Hong Kong Book Fair aims to promote literary culture from within its immediate geographical hinterland. It also exhibits the very best of world literature and showcases the latest publishing innovations. As you’d expect of a major fair in Asia, the most recent technological and multimedia innovations are on display, and visitors can engage in diverse cultural activities as well as buy books.
6. London Book Fair
Held every year for almost half a century, it would be criminal to write about world book fairs without mentioning London. The London Book Fair grew out of a specialist event for librarians, which was originally intended to provide a platform for small publishers to exhibit their work. These days, the London Book Fair is a massive international affair and, in Europe at least, it’s second only to Frankfurt. After moving location a few times, the fair has been held in Olympia for the last couple of years.
7. New Delhi World Book Fair
The New Delhi World Book Fair is India’s second oldest book fair, after Kolkata. It was first held in 1972 when it hosted two hundred exhibitors. Today the annual fair, organised by the National Book Trust, is the third biggest English Language book fair in the world with well over a thousand exhibitors annually. The Fair is usually held in the first couple of months of the year and caters for a domestic industry of almost twelve thousand publishers working in eighteen languages. However, exhibitors and visitors from every part of the world make it a truly global event.