Time to look back into the past, to the book fair of 2014 to be exact. The Boekenbeurs is the biggest of Belgium and I look forward to it every year. It takes place during the winter break from the 31 October to 11 November and it is the Mekka for booklovers, the Walhalla for readers, Heaven for fans of the written word, and so on. It is also the one time of year I spend too much money on books. I give myself a monthly allowance to buy books, but at this event I always spend way too much extra. But it’s only once a year, so no biggie right?
Let’s start with a little background on the book fair, and the impressions of my visit. If you haven’t been then I’m guessing you’re not from Belgium. If you do live here and you’ve never been, then I just … don’t … understand. Let me know if you are one of those exceptions, and be prepared to come up with a viable excuse as to why you haven’t been to the Boekenbeurs yet! =)
The 2014 edition was the 78th edition and it is still going strong! The event keeps on growing and is about ready to burst! It takes place in the Antwerp Expo and this enormous event hall only barely contains all of the booths. All publishers, book stores, magazines, newspapers, … are represented at the fair, as well as a whole slew of authors. A lot of new books are published around this time of year in Belgium, and the promotion is accompanied by a visit and signing session at the book fair. Sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, non-fiction, poetry, music sheets, novels, children’s books, comics, self-help books, For Dummies books, crafts and DIY books, coloring books, board games, newspapers, magazines, … You name it, you can find it at the Boekenbeurs! And as I said, every day a few dozen authors are present to sign books as well. Amongst these are also a few politicians, celebrities, actors, singers, … who are there to promote a biography for example. The last few years, the major cook book writers are also present to sign their books and give live demonstrations.
Now, the Boekenbeurs has a different theme every year, in 2014 it was COMIC BOOKS. Which means they gave a lot of extra attention to not only Belgian but also international comic books. There were more comic book authors and illustrators present than usual and there were different events surrounding comic books. For example, you had the chance to pitch a comic book idea to a panel of authors, illustrators and publishers. If they really liked it, you maybe got the chance to actually publish your story. How cool is that?
Also, every year, the book fair tries to break a Guiness World Record. In 2013 they broke the world record in Book Domino with a total of 4.845 books going down. In 2014, they tried to break the record of the Longest Rubber Bracelet. On November 13th, they measured the loom bracelet to see if they could break the previous record of 750m. Everybody could participate by weaving a part of the bracelet at the Guiness-stand. They were succesful and set a new record of no less than 1.473,9 meters!
So I think that should be enough to get you excited for the Boekenbeurs. If not, well then, you don’t like books! However, I do understand if you’re a little wary. So let me try to calm some of your worries, and hopefully convince you to consider going anyway.
If you are not able to buy books (book-allowance already spent, no more room in your book cases, your roommate won’t allow any more books in the house, …) and you think that is what the Boekenbeurs is all about, think again! Of course, selling books and paraphernalia is a big part of the Boekenbeurs, but it also wants to promote the written word. So there are a lot (!!) of competitions where you can win your weight in books, your length in books, a year of free books, … or even a 3D-statue of yourself! It’s a big part of my Boekenbeurs-experience every year: I go by every single booth to see if they have a competition and ALWAYS enter. Besides that, it is also a fun way to see what is going on in book-land, what the new books and big trends are, which authors are becoming more and more successful, …
Second possible worry: big crowds. It is true that the Boekenbeurs is flooded with people every year. For example, in 2013, there were 154.760 visitors and that is not counting all the authors and people who work in the booths and for the book fair itself. So you can imagine the kind of crowds present every day. Now I definitely understand how that would hold you back, I’m not the biggest fan of big crowds myself. And there’s not really much I can say to make it better, but I can give you a little tip. If you want to avoid the biggest crowds, plan your visit in the week during the day. There are a lot fewer people there and you can move around more freely.
I hope I’ve all convinced you of the wonder that is the Boekenbeurs and that you are all planning to go. If you are a booklover, it really is worth it!