By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Publishers Play ‘an Invaluable Role’Today (May 23), as the 30th Abu Dhabi International Book Fair opens, the day is starting off with a head-turning announcement that all publishing houses participating in the event will pay no fees for their stands and presence as exhibitors.
The news comes from the top leadership of the big fair’s administration, Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chair of Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism; Saood Al Hosani, undersecretary of the culture and tourism department; and Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, chair of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and director-general of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.
And this waiver applies to publishing houses attending this year’s fair, whether they’re on the exhibition floor with a physical display at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre or operating within the digital sphere of the hybrid programming mounted daily during the show’s run through May 29.
This surprise gesture will be a generously meaningful one for most if not all of the hundreds of publishers registered to welcome visitors to the vast show this year, surrounded as their stands always are, with stacks and stacks of books for sale.
“By waiving the fair’s participation fees for publishers, we are proactively offering key resources needed for them to continue their crucial work.”Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak
In our interview with Arab Publishers Association president Mohamed Rashad—an exchange available now to Publishing Perspectives readers free of charge in our new Abu Dhabi Show Magazine—it was confirmed that publishers in the Arab world were “shocked” by the twinned impacts of the cancellation of book fairs and the loss of anticipated funding from governments for the purchase of books.
As each market’s health sector drew more and more resources into response efforts to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, national book budgets were cut. And this happened just as book fair administrators across the region were forced to cancel their public-facing shows on which publishers are dependent for sales.
“The Arab Publishers Association conducted a survey during June 2020,” Rashad tells us, “and our results showed that 75 percent of our publishers’ sales decreased compared to 2019. In fact, 34 percent of the publishing sector actually exited. The number of titles normally published annually decreased between 50 and 75 percent, and there were no longer any distribution ports.” Rashad pointed out that when the Sharjah International Book Fair held a hybrid staging in November, that emirate’s Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi made a similar gesture, “easing a great burden on publishers,” as Rashad put it.
So the news of the fee waivers will come as a relief to many struggling publishing houses that now can look to this week as a solid chance to make up some of their losses.
‘To Seize a Whole Host of Opportunities’
In announcing the news, Al Mubarak, the chair of Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism, makes it clear why the program has decided that the urgency of the situation warrants this move, saying, “The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is one of our most important initiatives, in line with our strategy to position Abu Dhabi as a global centre for engaging, cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge exchange.
“This objective can only be achieved by working closely with publishing houses, which play an invaluable role in establishing Abu Dhabi as a hub for culture.
“By waiving the fair’s participation fees for publishers, we are proactively offering key resources needed for them to continue their crucial work, underscoring the department’s commitment to supporting local enterprises and reflecting the value of generosity our wise leadership has instilled in us as a nation and society.”
Al Hosani speaks to the essential role of publishers’ work in the emirates’ and the United Arab Emirates’ cultural development, saying, “Publishing houses are one of the driving forces behind building educated generations who are interested in reading, science, and knowledge, and they are also critical to the success of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
“We are delighted that all fees for publishing houses have been waived for this year’s edition, and this decision is an affirmation of our continuous support of culture and knowledge.
“This gesture also showcases the Islamic character of generosity and carries with it a message of unity and solidarity to the world, reinforcing a belief that the development of societies in terms of knowledge and progress begins with the stability and health of its cultural sector and its workers.
“This support will enable us to continue consolidating Abu Dhabi’s position as a cultural destination of distinction for publishers and writers.”
And Bin Tamim, familiar to Publishing Perspectives readers for his guidance of both the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and the new Language Centre in Abu Dhabi, says, “We at the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre also renew our commitment to supporting publishing houses, and are pleased to see all exhibitors are exempt from participation fees to reduce the burden on them attending the fair, as the event will provide them with an exciting platform for dialogue and exchange and enable them to seize a whole host of commercial and promotional opportunities.”
As our international readership knows, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has more than 800 exhibitors registered this year, with at least 46 nations represented as of this writing.
Entry to the physical fair will be limited to fully vaccinated people 17 and older. All visitors, exhibitors, and other participants will be required to have proof of a negative test result from a PCR test conducted within 48 hours of attempted entry.
A series of measures, including temperature checks, are being deployed in cooperation with public health authorities, and visitors need to obtain in advance an electronic access card either through the fair’s online site or using the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair smartphone app.
More on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here in our special landing page for all our coverage.
For your free copy of our specially produced 2021 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Show Magazine, click here.
More on Guest of Honor Germany and Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, and more on the United Arab Emirates’ market is here with more on the German market here. More from Publishing Perspectives more broadly on book fairs and trade shows is here. Publishing Perspectives is the media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and the International Publishers Association. Publishing Perspectives’ extended coverage of ADIBF 2021 is supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.