Abu Dhabi book fair: More people exploring their literary creativity amid pandemic, say publishers

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People enjoy browsing through local and international book collections at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in Adnec, Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The COVID-19 pandemic may have created a dent in sales, but publishing houses have seen a doubling in the number of people submitting works for publication.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2021 (ADIBF), publishers said this trend indicates that more people are willing to set aside the time to explore their creativity and share their knowledge.

“Of course, not every book that is submitted can be published, and there are still many challenges in the publishing world. But we have seen a 100 per cent increase in the number of works submitted to us in 2020, especially by authors who are not necessarily seeking a profit. Instead, they want to get their work out there to readers,” Abdullah Al Kaabi, co-founder of Abu Dhabi-based publishing house, Dragon Publishing, told Gulf News.

“It seems as if many more people now believe that they have the time to explore their creativity, and this is an interesting shift. We’ve actually seen many submissions of children’s books and novels,” added Eman bin Chaibah, founder and chief executive officer at Sail Publishing, which is based in Dubai.

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Publishers at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair feel that more people are willing to set aside the time to explore their creativity and share their knowledge. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Numerous events

The two publishers are among 889 exhibitors at the ADIBF, which is being held under strict COVID-19 precautionary measures this year. The much-awaited fair was cancelled in 2020 in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. This year’s event includes 229 on-site and virtual events with 248 speakers and experts from around the world. A total of 500,000 titles are also up for grabs at the seven-day fair, which continues until Saturday, May 29.

The event is organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), culture sector regulator for the emirate, and its Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, which works to preserve and modernise Arabic.

Sales boost

Eman bin Chaibah

Exhibitors hope the event will boost sales, just as the Sharjah International Book Fair did in November 2020. “At the outset, people were afraid that physical books could spread the coronavirus, so there was a sharp drop in sales. But this slowly picked up last summer, and peaked during the Sharjah fair. Now, with ADIBF, we hope to see a similar rise in sales,” Bin Chaibah said.

Interest in new skills

Select genres have however seen an uptick in sales. For instance, Dragon Publishing has seen a doubling of sales for its range of books that help non-Arabs learn Emirati Arabic. “I would say that this indicates residents’ desire to pick up new skills amid the economic changes spurred by the pandemic,” Al Kaabi said.

Industry incentives

As an incentive to publishers, ADIBF this year exempted all participating publishers from having to pay pavilion fees. “The ADIBF 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,” said Mohamed Al Mubarak, DCT Abu Dhabi chairman.

In addition, to celebrate 30 years of ADIBF, the event expanded its annual Spotlight on Rights programme, which supports the translation of works into Arabic, and from Arabic to other languages. Launched in 2009, the programme has so far supported the publication of more than 600 titles in literature, science and history, and this year, it will provide 300 financial grants to publishers, the organisers have announced.

COVID-19 precautions

All on-site fair events are being conducted under strict COVID-19 precautionary measures at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. In addition, free PCR testing is being provided at a number of Seha facilities to those aged 12 years and older who present ADIBF e-tickets. Those testing negative can use their results over the next 48 hours to gain entry to the fair. In addition, children aged below 12 years can also visit, as long as every two children are accompanied by an adult.

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair:

When: May 23-29

Timings: 9am-10pm on weekdays and Saturday, 4pm-10pm on Friday

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Visitors at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

COVID-19 precautions:

The events are being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), and a number of stringent COVID-19 measures are in place.

ADIBF visitors aged 12 and older must present a COVID-19 PCR test result with 48-hour validity.

Every two visitors aged up to 12 years have to be accompanied by an adult.

All visitors will need to register in advance, and can obtain an electronic access card through www.adbookfair.com, or through the dedicated mobile app.

Before arriving, visitors must install and activate Al Hosn app on their smartphones.

Visitors will have their temperature checked before being allowed to enter, and electronic tickets will be scanned.

The maximum duration of each visit should not exceed three hours.

Entry will be suspended when maximum capacity is reached to ensure adequate social distancing.

Face masks must be worn at all times.

If a visitor develops COVID-19 symptoms while at the fair, organisers should be alerted as soon as possible.