Memos from Asia

Five Must-Visit Book Festivals in Asia

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Offering unmatched opportunities for readers to interact with authors, participate in exciting talks, witness book launches, and study the latest trends from the publishing world, book festivals in Asia are the hotbed of literary activity and a must-visit for bibliophiles and anyone associated with the industry.

Ubud Writers and Readers Festivals – Indonesia

An event first started in 2003 to revive Bali’s tourism has since developed into one of the world’s leading book festivals. Held in the scenic village of Ubud, the annual five-day bookish celebration now attracts over 150 authors and speakers from across the globe who come here to discuss current issues, new books, and regional topics of interest.

In tune with Ubud’s artistic persona, the festival includes music performances, film screenings, and multiple interactive activities. Ubud Writers and Readers Festival typically takes place in October every year. In 2020, the event has been renamed as Kembali 2020 and will take place over 11 days with 60+ digital events featuring authors, chefs, workshops, cooking demos, poetry readings, and more.

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair – UAE

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is a literary institution in the Middle East, having a 29-year old legacy of promoting regional and international books and novelists. Attracting a diverse set of publishers, the book fair is an excellent place for readers to discover local talent while indulging in popular novels from across the globe. The event takes place in April and brings together more than 1300 exhibitors from 65 countries.

Although the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is an ideal destination for casual bibliophiles, it strongly focuses on the publishing world’s business aspect by hosting seminars, creating economic zones, and forming a bridge between artists and publishers so that they can work together.

Singapore Writers Festival – Singapore

The week-long book festival in Singapore takes place in October-November every year. It started in 1986 as a “biennial festival,” but is held annually now. Considered one of the best book festivals in Asia, it invites authors, journalists, and filmmakers based on a specific theme. “Intimacy” is the topic of discussion in 2020 as the festival goes digital due to the ongoing pandemic.

Readers visiting the Singapore Writers Festival have the privilege to partake in several interesting discussions, some of which are free while others are covered under a nominally priced festival ticket. When held on location, the event also has storytelling sessions and workshops for children, making the festival a fun-filled family bookish affair.

Jaipur Literary Festival – India

Not just one of the most famous book festivals in Asia, the Jaipur Literary Fest is renowned the world over and attended yearly by acclaimed authors, publishing houses, journalists, politicians, and other notable movers and shakers. The festival’s location in Jaipur’s Diggi Palace gives it a vintage aura that further adds to the event’s literary appeal.

Jaipur Literary Festival takes place in January and consists of numerous bookish events as well as cultural evenings. The talks are typically free, leading to massive crowds whenever there is a famous author present. JLF does offer festival tickets that provide access and seating to special events, dinners, and the opportunity to mingle closely with writers. Past speakers at the festival have included Jeffery Archer, Hanif Kureishi, Alexander McCall Smith, and William Dalrymple, who is also the founder and co-director of the festival.

Comiket – Japan

A twice-a-year bonanza, Japan’s Comic Market, is one of the most significant comic-book events globally, even surpassing SDCC in the number of attendees. The festival takes place at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center with its origins dating back to 1975. Incredibly popular with everyday fans, Comiket is the perfect place to discover self-published comics and bespoke merchandise. The festival takes pride in being “for fans, by fans.”

However, you can also get the latest on manga and anime releases from known publishers who put up special booths during the event. Cosplay is huge during Comiket, and another reason why it is a must-visit book festival in Asia. You will undoubtedly come across a vibrant array of familiar characters from Hollywood films, comics, anime, and manga, walking the grounds. Since 2019, the event, which takes place in August and December, will happen over four days. Although there is an entry fee, Comiket still attracts massive crowds, and it is advisable to reach the convention center as early as possible to make the most of your comic-filled day.

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