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.
....
Vano and Niko
Vano and Niko by Erlom Akhvlediani
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .

Read More >

The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

Read More >

Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories
Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .

Read More >

Tristana
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .

Read More >

The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

Read More >

Flesh-Coloured Dominoes
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .

Read More >

Iraqi Nights
Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .

Read More >

Three-Light Years
Three-Light Years by Andrea Canobbio
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .

Read More >

The Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .

Read More >

Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .

Read More >