In a world where information is always available to us on our smartphones, the Internet, and on television, many of us still turn to a book (in printed or e-book form) when we need more in-depth analysis on any topic.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
Charles W. Eliot (President of Harvard University 1869–1909)
Though purists may complain about how reading is affected by other forms of media including television and the internet, reading shows no signs of declining. With e-book and audio book sales increasing, books in newer and more innovative forms look set to flourish. And, what’s the best place to find books? Why a book fair, of course! From small book markets in medieval towns book fairs have grown into international events where book launches, rights deals, and international publishing and distribution contracts are negotiated. Read on to find out more about famous book fairs around the world – but first a little more about books.
Many leaders in history enhanced their education by reading when they could. Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela have described how they used their long spells in prison to read books as well as conceptualize books of their own that would help them share their vision with others. Even today, in our fast-paced world, many people rely on books to help them through difficult times, to cope with crises, and to transform their lives.
“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life.’”
Helen Exley (Writer and motivational thinker 1943)
Today, book fairs cater to readers of all hues with special events for children, trade, social sciences, business, and scientific and technical publishing.
Famous Book Fairs Around the World
International Book fairs are well-established events where publishers showcase their lists, promote new titles and authors, and negotiate rights deals for their works. Book fairs around the world have become high profile global events, where publishers, authors, buyers, and readers can interact and collaborate. If one is a member of the literati one could travel around the world all year round and visit some of world’s best book fairs. Some of the biggest book fairs around the world are:
Cairo International Book Fair, Cairo, Egypt – 22 January to 4 February 2014 (2015 dates to be declared)
Kolkata Book Fair, Kolkata, India – 28 January to 8 February 2015
New Delhi World Book Fair, New Delhi, India – 14 to 22 February 2015
Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Bologna, Italy – 30 March to 2 April 2015
London Book Fair, London, UK – 14 to 16 April 2015
Buenos Aires Book Fair, Buenos Aires, Argentina – 23 April to 11 May 2015
Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, Abu Dhabi, UAE – 7 to 13 May 2015
BookExpo America, New York City, USA – 27 to 29 May 2015
South African Book Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa – 19 to 21 June 2015
Tokyo International Book Fair, Tokyo, Japan – 1to 4 July 2015
Hong Kong Book Fair, Hong Kong, China – 15 to 21 July 2015
Beijing International Book Fair, Beijing , China – 27 to 31 August 2014 (2015 dates to be declared)
Moscow International Book Fair, Moscow, Russia – 3 to 8 September 2014 (2015 dates to be declared)
Frankfurt Book Fair, Frankfurt, Germany – 8 to 12 October 2014 (14 to 18 Oct 2015)
Guadalajara International Book Fair, Guadalajara, Mexico –29 November to 7 December 2014 (2015 dates to be declared)
Read to discover more about the biggest international book fairs.
Cairo International Book Fair
Date: 22 January to 4 February 2014 (2015 dates to be declared)
Venue: Cairo International Fair Grounds, Madinat Nasr, Cairo, Egypt
Special Feature: Theme for the 2014 fair was the slogan: “Culture and Identity”
Organized every year by the General Egyptian Book Organization in the last week of January, the Cairo International Book Fair is the biggest and the oldest book fair of the Arab world. The festival, which has entered in its 45th edition this year, is one of the largest book fairs of the world that draws nearly two million visitors every year. In the year 2006, it was acclaimed as the world’s second biggest book fair after the Frankfurt Book Fair.
However, the fair did not take place in January 2011 because of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, but it returned the very next year. “Culture and Identity” was the slogan and the theme of the 2014 book fair, which encompassed several topics for discussion: Egypt’s Coptic identity, idea of cultural borders, etc.
This year some 755 publishers from 24 nations participated in the fair where a specific section was dedicated entirely to children. Booths of the private publishers, books of several retailers, outdoor events, and also fireworks are some of the features of the fair
The Guest of Honor Country 2014 was Kuwait that gave away the awards to the ten best competition for books and Taha Hussein was the honorary literary face for whom 20 books were printed.
Kolkata Book Fair
Date: 28 January to 8 February 2015; Inauguration on 27 January 2015
Venue: Milan Mela, near Science City on E.M. Bypass, Kolkata, India
Special Feature: Focal Theme in 2015 – United Kingdom
Previously known as the Calcutta Book Fair and now as the International Kolkata Book Fair, it is the world’s largest non-trade book fair, which means it’s a book fair meant primarily for general public and not for whole-sale distributors. It is also considered the largest book fair in Asia and the book fair which attracts the maximum number of visitors worldwide, with over two million people visiting the fair.
In the 38th International Kolkata Book Fair 2014 (held from 29 January-9 February) world’s biggest multilingual free Internet encyclopaedia – Wikipedia, made its debut where it initiated the drive towards contributing and enriching the Bengali language version of Wikipedia known as “Banglapedia” by signing up volunteers.
The Kolkata Book Fair is an integral part of the cultural life of the city and is held around the time of the festival (Saraswati Puja) celebrating the Indian Goddess of Learning, Saraswati. The Kolkata Literary Festival is held at the same time and includes book readings, meet-the-author sessions, literary discussions, and other cultural events. The Kolkata Book Fair is a great way to experience the vibrant culture of this city at its best, in a fairground atmosphere that celebrates the culture of books and reading.
New Delhi World Book Fair
Date: 14 to 22 February 2015
Venue: Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, India
Special Feature: New Delhi Rights Table (16-17 February 2015)
The New Delhi World Book Fair is the oldest book fair in India, and was first held in 1972. Organized by the National Book Trust (NBT) and the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), the New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) is now an annual event that attracts exhibitors from around the world. In 2014 as many as 1,200 Indian companies and 31 international publishers exhibited their books at the fair.
India is now the third-largest market for English language publications. India has around 12,000 publishers that produce about 90,000 titles in the 18 main languages of the country.
In order to enhance collaborations between publishers, the NBT is conducting a Rights Table from 16 to 17 February at the 2015 New Delhi World Book Fair. This is a forum for Indian and international publishers to buy and sell rights for translating their works to make them more widely accessible.
Bologna Children’s Book Fair
Date: 30 March to 2 April 2015
Venue: Bologna Fair Center, Bologna, Italy
Special Feature: Guest of Honor Country Brazil in 2014.
Held since 1963, and in its 51st edition this year, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is the world’s biggest fair for Children’s publishing and multimedia products.
The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is a venue for authors, publishers, literary agents, designers, and content creators, to discover the best in publishing the educational materials for children, learn about new technology and developments, explore new business opportunities, and buy and sell copyrights.
A number of important awards in children’s publishing are also presented at the Bologna Book Fair. These include the Bologna Ragazzi Awards, which are given in four categories – Fiction, Non-fiction, New Horizons (outside the Western world), and Opera Prima (for first works). Other awards announced during the fair are the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and the Hans Christian Andersen Awards.
London Book Fair
Date: 14 to 16 April 2015
Venue: Olympia, London, UK
Special Feature: Market Focus country – Mexico
Originally started on 5 November 1971, as The Specialist Publishers Exhibition for Librarians (SPEX) by Lionel Leventhal, as a means to help small publishers show their work to librarians, the London Book Fair is now the world’s second most important book fair after the Frankfurt Book Fair. It is considered “a mecca for European Publishers, booksellers, rights agents, and media trendspotters.”
Coinciding with London Book and Screen Week, a celebration of literary and cinematic creativity, the London Book Fair will take place at the Olympia Exhibition grounds from 14 to 16 April 2015 and will host a variety of literary events. Every year the London Book Fair also highlights a country or region with the aim to promote collaborations with its publishing industry. The Market Focus country for 2015 at the London Book Fair will be Mexico, which has the 13th largest economy worldwide.
Buenos Aires Book Fair
Date: 23 April to 11 May 2015
Venue: La Rural Fairgrounds, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Special Feature: Largest book fair in the Spanish-speaking world
Buenos Aires International Book Fair is meant for all – the publishing industry, the literary community, and the general public. It is the largest book fair in the Spanish-speaking world.
Organized by the Fundación El Libro, a non-profit organization set up by the Argentine Society of Writers (SADE), the Buenos Aires International Book Fair will now be in its 41st year. It is one of the five most important book fairs in the world. Also, Buenos Aires was chosen in 2011 as UNESCO’s World Book Capital.
The Buenos Aires Book Fair is one of the longest book fairs in the world with a duration of almost three weeks. Around 1,200,000 visitors attended the 2014 book fair ,which had 1,500 exhibitors from 50 countries. Activities at the fair, include literary conferences and business meetings for various stakeholders in the publishing industry.
Abu Dhabi International Book Fair
Date: 7 to 13 May 2015
Venue: Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Special Feature: Spotlight on Rights Program
Started in 2007 and organized by KITAB, a collaboration between the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is an annual event hosted in the UAE. It is one of the most important book fairs in the Middle East region as Abu Dhabi is increasingly becoming a hub for the publishing industry in the Arabian Gulf region. The Abu Dhabi Book Fair provides a forum where publishers, agents, distributors, and educational organizations can discuss collaboration and business prospects.
A special feature of the Abu Dhabi Book Fair started in 2009/10 is the “Spotlight on Rights” Program. The program grants a subsidy cost of $1,000 to publishers to promote the negotiation of copyright licenses to and from the Arabic language.
The 2014 Abu Dhabi Book Fair hosted 1,025 exhibitors from 50 countries and had more than 500,000 titles on display.
Date: 27 to 29 May 2015
Venue: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York City, USA
Special Feature: The BookCon (an event where storytelling and pop culture collide)
Originally held as the American Booksellers Association Convention and Trade Show from the years 1947 to 1971, BookExpo America, also known as BEA, is the biggest annual book trade fair in the USA.
Previously held in Chicago, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, BookExpo America has been organized in New York City at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center since 2009.
Spread over for usually three days towards the end of May or early June, BookExpo America plays host to all the major publishers in America. The event is attended by publishers, agents, authors, distributors, and librarians who use this forum to conduct business and explore new opportunities for collaboration.
Cape Town Book Fair/South African Book Fair
Date: 19 to 21 June 2015
Venue: Johannesburg, South Africa
Special Feature: Alternating venues between Cape Town and Johannesburg
Started in 2006 as a joint venture between the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Publishers Association of South Africa (PASA), the Cape Town Book Fair was meant to replace the Harare Book Fair which no longer exists. Now called the South African Book Fair, it is considered the biggest and most significant international book fair in sub-Saharan Africa.
From 2014 onwards this event will become an alternating annual event called the South African Book Fair, shifting between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Thus, while the 2014 event was successfully held in Cape Town from 13 to 15 June 2014, the 2015 event will be held in Johannesburg from 19 to 21 June 2015.
The 2014 event had over 120 events, including book launches and book club meetings, with the participation of more than 100 authors, critics, illustrators, and publishing professionals. The event also had significant public participation, thus satiating the appetite of South African book lovers.
Tokyo International Book Fair
Date: 1 to 4 July 2015
Venue: Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo International Exhibition Center), Tokyo, Japan
Special Feature: e-book Expo (1-3 July)
Organized by the Tokyo Book Fair Executive Committee and Reed Exhibitions Japan, the Tokyo International Book Fair (TIBF) is one of the premier book fairs in East Asia. It is also the biggest publishing event of Japan where more than 60,000 visitors and publishing companies from 25 nations assemble under one roof.
Highlights of the 2015 fair are an e-books expo, and exhibitions for Licensing, content creators, content solutions, and production companies.
The Tokyo International Book Fair has several sub categories, which include the Natural Sciences Book Fair, Humanities & Social Sciences Book Fair, Children’s Books Fair, Lifestyle, Hobby & How to Books Zone, Book’s Accessories Zone, Solutions for Publication Distribution Zone, and International Printing Zone.
Hong Kong Book Fair
Date: 15 to 21 July 2015
Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Hong Kong, China
Special Feature: Completed 25 years in 2014
Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the Hong Kong Book Fair celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. Apart from providing a forum for publishers and distributors to meet, the fair hosts numerous cultural and literary activities for the general public, in order to promote a culture of reading.
The fair had a record attendance of over one million visitors at its last edition in 2014. Around 570 exhibitors from 30 nations became a part of the event and with over 500 cultural events the fair came to a sparkling end on 22 July.
The Hong Kong Book Fair showcases books and publications, children’s and teen’s books, religious books, e-books & e-learning resources: e-book Readers, audio visual learning aids, educational software, multimedia products, and stationery and printed products.
Beijing International Book Fair
Date: 27 to 31 August 2014 (2015 dates to be declared)
Venue: China International Exhibition Center, Beijing, China
Special Feature: Motto: “Introducing excellent books from around the world into China and leading Chinese books to the world.”
Started in 1986, the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), is a premier book fair in Asia providing a significant opportunity for international publishers to network, make trade contacts, and explore opportunities in the lucrative Chinese publishing market.
The 21st edition of the Beijing International Book Fair was held from 27 to 31 August 2014.
The Country of Honor was Turkey and the overall exhibition area covered 53,600 sq meters.
Highlights of the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) included the Digital Publishing Zone, Publishing on Demand Zone, the Rights Center, the Library Acquisition Zone, the Children’s Book, Cartoons & Animation Zone, and the Periodical Zone.
Moscow International Book Fair
Date: 3-8 September 2014 (2015 dates to be declared)
Venue: Moscow, Russia
Special Feature: “Knigabite” (Book & Bite) forum for Digital Technology
Started in 1977, the Moscow International Book Fair is the biggest book fair in Russia.
With over 1,000 publishers participating in the fair, which extends over 30,000 sq meters at the venue the fair offers something for all visitors, who throng the fair from the first Wednesday in September.
The fair hosts a series of workshops, meet-the-author sessions, and seminars at the Literary festival.
Other highlights of the fair, include the “Knigabite” (Book & Bite) forum where the influence of Digital technology on the publishing industry is discussed. Every year a guest of Honor Country is welcomed and its publishing industry showcased at the fair.
The children’s literature area “Chitay-ka!” (Let’s read!) showcases the best of children’s literature, while the On-Demand section of the Fair showcases the latest Digital printing technologies. The Moscow International Bok Fair also offers books at a discount for all visitors.
Frankfurt Book Fair
Date: 8 to 12 October 2014 ( Next: 14 to 18 October 2015)
Venue: Frankfurt Trade Fair Grounds, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Special Feature: Guest of Honor Country 2014 – Finland; 2015 Indonesia
The world’s largest and most important book fair, the Frankfurt Book Fair is simply a must-visit if one is in the publishing industry. The 2013 edition hosted 7,275 exhibitors from 102 nations, and 275,342 visitors, including 9,300 journalists, 631 literary agents, and 170,664 professional visitors.
While the first three days are meant only for trade visitors, the fair opens its doors to the general public on the other two days. The Frankfurt Book Fair is regarded as the most significant book fair in the world for international book rights.
The Frankfurt Book Fair’s origins lie around 500 years ago, when the first book fair was held after printing became popular, after the invention of moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439. Now organized for over 60 years, by a related company of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, the Frankfurt Book Fair is the premier event in the global publishing industry.
Several prizes are awarded every year at the book fair. These include the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year. The latter prize was started in 1978 by The Bookseller, a British trade magazine, and the Diagram Group, a London-based media company. Recent winners of the prize for oddest book title of the year, chosen by an online poll are Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop (2012) and How to Poo on a Date (2013).
Guadalajara International Book Fair
Date: 29 November to 7 December 2014 (2015 dates to be declared)
Venue: Exhibition Center, Expo Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Mexico
Special Feature: Guest of Honor Country 2014 – Argentina
Started in 1987 by the University of Guadalajara, the Guadalajara International Book Fair, also called FIL derived from its Spanish name (Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara) has grown to become the second most important annual book fair in the Spanish-speaking world after the Buenos Aires International Book Fair.
The Guadalajara International Book Fair opens its doors to both publishing professionals and general readers, which gives it a unique charm. Apart from promoting the business of publishing, the fair hosts a cultural festival with literary events for authors from around the world and an academic discussion forum on topical issues.
The associated cultural festival features cinema, the arts, music, and theatre, where the visitors and local people participate wholeheartedly over the nine days of the festival. The 2013 event received some 1,935 publishing houses from 43 nations and around 659,898 visitors attended the fair.