Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Readies Its 32nd Edition

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

One of the Arab world’s largest bookselling fairs, the public-facing Abu Dhabi International Book Fair opens May 22.

PlatinumBook’s busy stand at the 2022 edition of Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

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The 2023 Guest of Honor: Turkey
As the 32nd edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair approaches (May 22 to 28), there are more than 2,000 events being scheduled for the soaring Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, where at least 1,300 exhibitors are booked to arrive from more than 90 nations.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know well, the public-facing book fair is the premiere bookselling vehicle in much of the Arab world. And this is why special wheeled carts are prepared for families and kids who will be seen roaming the show floor with troves of bookish discoveries to take home.

The show annually can be expected to draw some 150,000 or more visitors.

This year’s fair’s guest of honor is Turkey, and at a momentous time: Just a week before the huge fair opens with Turkey’s pavilion at the center of the show in Abu Dhabi, Ankara’s closely watched cliffhanger election plays out in Ankara and Istanbul. Reuters’ Orhan Coskun writes, “Turkey appeared headed for a runoff presidential election after neither Tayyip Erdogan nor rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu cleared the threshold to win outright on Sunday, although Erdogan performed better than expected in his battle to extend his 20-year rule.”

Meanwhile at Abu Dhabi, the Turkish program is to include highlights from the country’s cultural exchanges with the Arab world and various points of Turkish cultural pride.

There’s a focus planned on Turkish literature, including poetry, as well as translations of literary classics; a look at Turkey’s culinary traditions and the “Game Changing Women” who have contributed to it; a feature called “Philosophy for Children”; and a slate of authors expected to include Beşir Ayvazoğlu and Mehmet Hakkı Suçin.

The Abu Dhabi Fair’s Overall Theme: Sustainability

On the exhibition floor of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2022. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

The United Arab Emirates has made 2023 a “year of sustainability” in light of its plan to host the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, COP 28, set to run November 30 to December 12, something spotlighted last week when Bodour Al Qasimi made the opening address at the Sharjah International Booksellers Conference.

At the Abu Dhabi fair next week, it’s expected that the theme will be carried out with a series of though-provoking observations on the future of Earth, including panel discussions meant to explore sustainability as it pertains to the book publishing industry, of course.

Each year the fair has a “focus personality,” and this year’s is the 14th-century Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, a pivotal figure in the development of social sciences. There are to be discussions of history, philosophy, and literature relative to Khaldun’s influence, with speakers including the Tunisian historian and archaeologist Ibrahim Shabouh, philosopher Ahmed Barqawi, and British writer Anthony Sattin.

Publishing Perspectives readers know that the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is also the event from which news of the leading literary awards emanates, too, with the Sheikh Zayed Book Award introducing its winners for its 17th edition, and the International Prize for Arabic Fiction naming this year’s winner from its shortlist, which we published on March 1.

While the Zayed Award is a project of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center under the direction of Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, this is also the 15th year in which the Prize for Arabic Fiction has been hosted by Abu Dhabi, as well. The Arabic Language Center is, in turn, a program of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair also features a professional program with sessions on marketing, translation, partnerships, content creation, and publishing. This year’s topics will include digital publishing, of course, as well as issues around “artificial intelligence,” social communication, and marketing.

And organizers say they see a particular emphasis on young people “across all programs and activities” this year, with a key emphasis on an educational program, with reading sessions led by authors and illustrators, science and art workshops, and theatrical presentations.

Matt Ridley

Among speakers anticipated to be available to the audiences in the UAE are the popularly  Matt Ridley, the HarperCollins/FourthEstate author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves and How Innovation Works, as well as, most recently, Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19.

Also on the list of those expected to speak are Carissa Véliz of the Institute for Ethics in AI at Oxford, and Ali Tabrizi, who directed Netflix’s documentary Seaspiracy.

We’ll have much more coverage of and from the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, of course, and today (May 15), we’re preparing a companion piece with an interview from a speaker in the forthcoming show-opening International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here, and more on the United Arab Emirates’ market is here. More from us on book fairs and trade shows in world publishing is here. More on translation is here, and more on Arabic in the publishing world is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. Our extended coverage of ADIBF 2023 is supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s global media partner.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.