20 October 09 | Chad W. Post

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

Over the past few years, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has grown substantially, taking on a more professional focus and serving as the platform for visitors and publishing folks within the region to meet and start doing business. One of the driving forces behind the expansion of ADIBF is the belief among foreign publishers that the Middle East represents a relatively untapped market (pun unintended) with enormous potential.

Today’s “teatime” event offered a chance for English-language publishers to get a better understanding of the opportunities in the region, and to demonstrate how valuable it is to attend the ADIBF (and as a publisher myself, I can confirm this).

This may well have been the most well-organized, comprehensive, and useful panel that I’ve attended so far at the Fair. (Not that the others were bad, but damn, this was like consultant-level knowledge.) Each of the presenters were very clear, very engaging, and very practical in their advice.

The difficulties for English-language publishers wanting to enter into the Arabic market are fairly evident, but worth repeating: reading isn’t a fundamental activity in the Arab world, most print runs are very small, and books are considered to be a luxury purchase. Not to mention, the “Arab Book Market” is by no means homogenous, with each country functioning in a slightly different way and applying different censorship criteria. And the Western idea of “distributors/wholesalers” is totally different in the Arab World.

That said, opportunities exist both for trade publishers and educational publishers. On the trade front, the fact that bookstores are becoming more professional—through the opening of Borders, Virgin Megastores, etc., in the UAE—offers sudden opportunities for publishers to get their books in front of readers. Plus, there are a lot of programs in place to promote literacy and encourage children to become readers.

On the educational side of things, there’s even more going on. Every year more and more International Schools are opening in the UAE (and elsewhere). At the present time, more than 450,000 students are being taught in English. Parallel to overall education initiatives, a lot of money is going into expanding and improving library collections. Ministries of Education are spending a lot of money on educational resources and teacher training, and are looking for appropriate materials to use and companies to partner with.

All of this sounds great, and looks good on paper, but to really take advantage of these opportunities and the rapidly expanding Arabic book market, the best thing to do is to learn more about the Arab world and how business is done there, and to start making connections with people in the area. For that reason, attending the ADIBF next March makes a lot of sense.

Comments are disabled for this article.
Death by Water
Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe
Reviewed by Will Eells

Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .

Read More >

Twenty-One Cardinals
Twenty-One Cardinals by Jocelyne Saucier
Reviewed by Natalya Tausanovitch

Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .

Read More >

One of Us Is Sleeping
One of Us Is Sleeping by Josefine Klougart
Reviewed by Jeremy Garber

We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .

Read More >

Bye Bye Blondie
Bye Bye Blondie by Virginie Despentes
Reviewed by Emma Ramadan

Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .

Read More >

La Superba
La Superba by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
Reviewed by Anna Alden

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .

Read More >

Intervenir/Intervene by Dolores Dorantes; Rodrigo Flores Sánchez
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .

Read More >

All Days Are Night
All Days Are Night by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .

Read More >

The Seven Good Years
The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .

Read More >

Human Acts
Human Acts by Han Kang
Reviewed by J.C. Sutcliffe

Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .

Read More >

Nowhere to Be Found
Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah
Reviewed by Pierce Alquist

It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .

Read More >