Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Göteborg (Gothenburg) Book Fair - a guide in English

A short introduction and guide to the Göteborg Book Fair (Göteborgs bokmässa or Gothenburg Book Fair) for the English-speaking visitor.

The Göteborg Book Fair is, with its close to 100,000 annual visitors, Scandinavia’s largest cultural event. Among its program events are literary seminars, poetry readings, and discussions on many topics by writers, illustrators, researchers, Nobel Laureates, politicians, and thinkers from all over the world.

In 2016, there were more than:
  • 4,000 program events
  • 800 exhibitors on 12,000 square meters (130,000 square feet) of exhibition space
  • 400 seminars
  • 800 authors and lecturers at the seminars
  • 38 countries represented at the seminars and 28 countries represented at the exhibits
  • 56 international agents and publishers at the International Rights Centre

The Göteborg Book Fair takes place annually during four days, Thursday through Sunday, at the end of September. Its host city, Göteborg (Gothenburg), is Sweden’s second largest city with 550,000 inhabitants (990,000 in the metro area) located on the west coast of Sweden.

The event is held at Svenska Mässan (The Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre) on the east side of Göteborg. Svenska Mässan is a 148,000 square meter (1.6 million square feet) facility with 41,000 square meter (440,000 square feet) of exhibition and congress space and an attached 1,200-room hotel, Gothia Towers.

The logo of the Göteborg Book Fair, a mermaid, is an illustration from the first printed book in Swedish from 1483.

Göteborg Book Fair before opening
© 2015 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.


The Göteborg Book Fair was first launched in 1985. Aimed at schools and libraries, the first event had around 5,000 visitors. Already then, they set the trend of inviting well-known authors and saw among others Nobel Laureate in Literature Isaac B. Singer and author Michael Ende among the illustrious guests. In 1986, they opened the fair up to the general public.

Göteborg Book Fair
© 2015 Anna C./See. Be. Draw.


According to a 2016 survey of about 600 people, 33% of visitors (35% in 2015) are cultural sector professionals, representing education, libraries, documentation, information, and culture. This includes authors, publishers, media and photographers, graphic professionals, illustrators, translators, bookstores, museums, and more. Within the cultural sector, teachers and librarians are the two biggest groups of visitors.

According to the survey, 79% of the professional visitors were women (67% in 2015).  

1% of the professional visitors came from abroad (4% in 2015).

Of the general public, most visitors came from Sweden and 82% were women, (67% in 2015).

Note that the survey sample size was small enough that there is a margin of error.


Each year has a theme. The theme for 2016 was Freedom of Expression, commemorating the 250-year anniversary of the Swedish 1766 Freedom of the Press Act, the first in the world.

In 2015, the theme was Hungary with a special focus on Iceland, and in 2014 Brazil.

For 2017, the theme is set to be Bildung (language, reading, and literature), with a special focus on Finnish literature as Finland celebrates its centennial as an independent nation.


The Göteborg Book Fair can be said to have two main parts:
  1. The exhibitors and their program events on the main and second floors
  2. The seminars on the second floor

There are about 400 seminars offered each year, with over 800 authors, scholars, and lecturers taking part. To attend, you need to purchase a seminar pass (about $400 for the four days, $200 for one day).

Topics include authors discussing their latest book or a related topic, children and youth literature, illustration, translation, the annual theme, and debates related to current events.

On Thursday and most of Friday, there are many seminars geared toward education, schools and libraries.

Exhibitors and program events

In 2016, there were about 800 exhibitors on a floor area totaling close to 12,000 square meters (130,000 square feet), the majority being publishers, companies, and organizations. They, too, arrange numerous program events featuring authors and other speakers, all included in the entrance fee (about $30 for one day).

The exhibitors also offer evening mingling and networking opportunities, which you sign up for through each company's or organization's social media. 

The total number of seminar, exhibit, and stage events at the book fair are over 4,000 and include over 3,000 participants.

International Rights Centre (IRC)

The International Rights Centre is a place for publishers and agents to meet and buy and sell rights, meet international colleagues, and get a feel for the market in the Nordic Region.

In 2016, there were 54 international agents and publishers at 74 tables (63 agents at 79 tables in 2015).

For the English-speaking visitor

While most seminars and events are held in Swedish, there are several held in English as well. In both 2015 and 2016, there were about 50 seminars held in English, most on Thursday and Friday (about 20/day), some on Saturday (10-15), and only a few on Sunday.

In general, if the invited speaker is from a country other than Sweden, Norway, or Denmark (the Scandinavian languages are quite similar), then the seminar or event will be held in English.

In 2016, 38 countries were represented in the seminars. In addition, 28 countries were represented in the exhibits.

Also, if you need assistance, most Swedes speak English very well!

You may also like this post, Tips for the Göteborg Book Fair visitor, a must-read if you are a first-time visitor!

The official site for the Göteborg Book Fair can be found here.

The 33rd Göteborg Book Fair will take place on September 28-October 1, 2017.

En introduktion till Göteborgs bokmässa för engelskspråkiga besökare.

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