How often do you visit book fairs? Almost every ardent reader in the world has visited one at least once in their lifetime. Book fairs, for those unfamiliar, who are, we hope, scarce to find these days, are annual bazaar-like events where publishers and booksellers gather in order to promote the sale of books. At a book fair, you find yourself in a grand hall surrounded by literally billions of books - the choice is so great, your eyes can't seem to get enough but the only thing that might hurt you is none other than your wallet (or pocket, if you are one of those people that don't carry wallets).
Frankfurt Book Fair (October), also known as Frankfurter Buchmesse, is the most famous, the grand one - world's largest fair for books, held each year in mid-October in the German city of Frankfurt. With over 7000 publishers from 100 countries and around 300.000 visitors annually, The Frankfurt Book Fair is something no book lovers should ever miss out on. In 2009, the fair takes place from the 14th to the 18th of October, with China as the guest of honor. What is astonishing about the Frankfurt Book Fair is its 500 year long tradition: the first book fair was held soon after Johannes Gutenberg had invented the printing press in the 15th century. From 17th century hereon, it acquired the status of the most important fair in Europe, and the whole world. The first post WW2 fair was held in 1949, thus establishing a 60 year long tradition of quality, education and culture.
It is rather easy to find the Fair - located near the main railway station, the Messegelände is the name for the huge fair complex where the exhibitions are held. Just one tip: make sure you plan your day carefully, or take the whole weekend in order to experience the fair in its full extent. With one day ticket ranging from 12 (for groups) to 14E (for individuals, while school children and students get a 50% discount) this fair falls into the category of excellent value-for-money ones. Also, weekend tickets for the price of 20 euros are available as the book fair is only open on the 17th and 18th for the general public, while the fist three days are reserved for trade visitors. If you miss out on this year's fair, the 2010 Frankfurter Buchmesse takes place from the 6th to 10th of October.
London Book Fair (April) is one of the biggest book fairs in the United Kingdom (with around 5,000 publishers). Held annually, it takes place every spring, usually in April (2009: 20-22 April). Just as many fairs have their theme and guests of honor, this year's fair is focusing on India and its publishers. London Book Fair is a global marketplace characterized by a lively atmosphere, excitement, a large variety of books in the native language of the country and various free seminars and discussions. The only downside seems to be the entrance fee of 40 pounds on site (although, registering online in advance and saving 15 pounds is highly advisable). Check out this amateur video of LBF.
If you miss out this year's fair, make your self available for the next ones - in 2010 held from 19th to 21st and April 11th to April 13th 2011. London Book Fair is located at Earls Court, Warwick Road.
29th Salon du Livre, Paris (March) is France's largest book fair. This year it took place from the 13th to the 18th of March. Hence, try not to miss the 2010 one (19th-24th of March). This year's guest of honor was Mexico: with a Mexican pavilion named Mosaic of Diversity, the focus were the promotions of young Mexican authors and Mexican literature. The 29th Salon was attended by approximately 200,000 people.
Salon du Livre takes place at Porte de Versaille in the 15th arondissement. The entrance fee to the fair ground is always at a bargain price: the 2009 admission was 7€ (when booking online) and it was free for those under 18, students under 26 and unemployed people.
Thessaloniki Book Fair (May) is Greece's biggest book fair and surprisingly, it is not in the country's capital but in the city of Thessaloniki, in the northern part of the country. It is an international event, taking place annually every spring since 2004. The 2009 exhibition lasts for four days (28th May - 31st May), with Germany as the guest of honor - the Frankfurt Fair is organizing this year's stand and History is this year's theme of the exhibition. It is interesting to add that this book fair has a special children's corner organized every year.
Thessaloniki Fair was born as a collaboration between the National Book Centre of Greece, Greek publishers, ministry of Greece and Helexpo, where the main exhibition areas are. What is amazing about this fair is the fact that the admission is - free!
Bologna Children's Book Fair (March) is the world's leading book festival which focuses solely on children's publishers. It has a 45 years long tradition and it usually takes place in March (2009: 23rd - 26th March, 2010: March 22nd - 25th). The Bologna Children's Book Fair is a grand event with over a thousand of exhibitors, various programs and events. The only peculiar thing about this fair is that it is strictly reserved for trade, meaning that there are no children running about at the expo since no one under the age of 18 is allowed on the fair's premises. Too bad.
Bookworld Prague (May) 15th annual book fair, from the 14th to the 17th of May 2009, held at the Palace of Industry (Prague Exhibition Ground) in the capital of the Czech Republic, with central theme being Literature in the European Union (hence the symbolic name of this year's theme: 27 from 27). Writers from the EU are invited to introduce their work, take part in various discussions (on life, identity, diversity in the Union, as well as literature and recent literary trends in Europe). Admission: 150 CZK.
23rd Salon international du livre et de la presse in Geneva (April) is yet another book fair in Europe, taking place in spring (22nd-26th April in 2009). Located at Geneva Palexpo, this Swiss book fair has an approximate number of visitors of around 100,000. One will not be left either disappointed or penniless as the entrance fee is solely 12CHF for adults, 5CHF for Students and free for those under the age of 16.
Moreover, there is the Book Festival Budapest, Hungary (16th annual, from the 23rd to the 26th of April 2009) taking place in the Millenaris (the fair's new venue since a year ago). Their south-eastern neighbor, Romania, is this year's guest of honor.
Goteborg Book Fair in Sweden takes place in the fall (24th - 27th September) and it has a 24 year long tradition (from 1985). The focus of this year's fair is Spain and it's publishers and authors. The entrance fees for 2009 are not yet settled. Further to the east, in the neighboring Norway, there's the Oslo Book Fair (or Oslo Bokmessa), with the 2009 dates yet unannounced.
There's an interesting switch of the location with the next festival in line: Liber - Spain's biggest annual festival alternates between Madrid and Barcelona each year. The 2009 Liber is the 26th in row, taking place from the 7th to the 9th of October in Madrid. If you pre-register, you are not expected to pay the fee which is otherwise 20 euros. Liber is strictly a fair organized for the people professional in the book publishing business.
The Russians also have a festival to offer: the 22nd Moscow International Book Fair from the 2nd to the 7th of September 2009, as well as do the Portuguese with their long tradition of 78 years and Feria do Livro Lisboa. This year's Feria takes place from the 24th of May to the 15th of June. Also, there is the Ars Polona - also known as the Warsaw Book Fair. The 54th Fair, located at the Foreign Trade Enterprise, takes place from the 21st to the 24th of May and the guest of honor is the Council of Europe.
Europe is indeed rich in literary festivals and it would be impossible for us to list them all here. But one thing is sure: book fairs are places where people in the book business join in annually to meet, present their books and discuss current trends in the literary business: from publishers, booksellers via domestic and foreign writers to literary agents, librarians, printing and other public organizations. Book fairs are indeed small pieces of heaven of book diversity, no matter where they are.
*If we have failed to mention a book fair you feel would be crucial for us to do, please do not hesitate to drop us a line and suggest a fair be added to this article. Furthermore, if you have visited any of these fairs, we would appreciate it if you left a comment and share your experience with our readers.
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