Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tips for the Göteborg Book Fair visitor

Here are a few tips for the English-speaking visitor to the Göteborg Book Fair (Göteborgs bokmässa or Gothenburg Book Fair) in Sweden. The Göteborg Book Fair is the largest cultural event in Scandinavia with close to 100,000 visitors over four days in 2016.

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

1. Wear comfortable (and cool) shoes

You’ll be walking miles on concrete floors over the span of several days. It may even be a good idea to bring an extra pair to switch it up with. I also recommend keeping it cool as the temperature at the fair is hot. Nice yet comfortable sandals can be an alternative, too.

2. Wear cool (and comfortable) clothes

This is not your air-conditioned-until-freezing-cold American convention center, but its much warmer European counterpart, so dress accordingly. It may be cold and rainy outside, but inside the mercury will soar as the fair fills up. Leave outdoor clothes in the coatroom and dress in light layers.

Still, you’ll want to be dressed up as this is not just a fair but also a prime networking and mingling event!

3. Bring a shoulder bag for all those books

This is a book fair, so you’ll most likely leave with more books than you came with, especially if you can read Swedish. I would recommend a light shoulder bag or a tote bag, or perhaps a combined tote/backpack such as this lightweight travel tote pack. The most versatile size can fit an A4 (approx. 8 ½”x11”) book or pamphlet.

I would not recommend a backpack, since the space is so tight you’ll risk tearing down a display or someone’s drink.

4. Bring a water bottle and a snack

Self explanatory. Maybe also bring band-aids for sore feet!

5. Bring a physical map and the seminar and floor program catalogs

Yes, there is WiFi, but with 20-30,000 people trying to access it at the same time, signals may be weak so better come prepared.

6. Find out seminar locations ahead of time

For the same reason as above (see 5.) you'd better find out seminar locations ahead of time. They are not listed in the seminar catalog. Ideally, check online the evening before as this is also the way to find out any cancellations or changes to the program.

Write down the seminar rooms and study the map to see if it will be possible to get from one seminar (or program event) to another in time.  

To get from a main floor event in the southeast corner, via crowded floors and escalators, to a seminar on the upper level in the northwest corner can take a long time!

7. Find out the best way to pay

As Sweden is moving toward becoming a paperless society, cash is also on its way out, and credit cards may not be accepted everywhere. Inquire ahead of time about the best ways to pay. Cash and credit cards may still be ok, other options are debit cards and Swish payments.

8. Bring a small umbrella (unless staying at the convention hotel)

As Göteborg is located on the west coast of Sweden, it is bound to rain at least one out of the four days of the fair. As the line to enter the fair snakes around the block, it is not uncommon to see drenched fair goers holding up newspapers for protection.

9. Stay at the convention hotel

To stay at the convention hotel (Gothia Towers) is the easiest way to go, but there are many other nice hotels in the area as well, most of which will involve cab rides to and from the convention center. There is an attached parking garage right next door for those inclined to drive. Remember that thousands of other people also will be needing cabs, parking, or public transportation to get to the fair.

10. Get there early

As in first thing in the morning or the first day of the fair. That’s the way to avoid spending much time in line (both to get a cab and to enter the fair) and to get a chance to browse the exhibits before the people density reaches its high during the weekend. This may be especially important for the introvert or highly sensitive person.

11. Plan your seminar or program event schedule (and buy your seminar pass) ahead of time

The seminars are, in my opinion, the best part of the fair! Here is an opportunity to catch up on the latest in literature for adults and children, discussions related to current events, talks, readings, and debates. The seminar catalog is available in English. You can buy your seminar pass online, about $400 for the four days, $200 for one day. 

While most of the seminars are in Swedish, I counted over 50 seminars in English in both 2015 and 2016, most on Thursday and Friday (approx. 20/day), some on Saturday (10-15) and only a few on Sunday.

In addition to the seminars, there are also many program events held by the exhibitors and on numerous stages around the fair. These are generally noisier than the seminars as there are no walls. However, many seminar topics are often discussed at the program events as well, and the program events are included in the entrance fee, about $30 for one day.

Be aware that the sheer volume of people coupled with lines to get in, to get lunch, buy a snack, have a book signed, go to the restroom, etc., will make it difficult to quickly get from one place to another. Give yourself some extra space in your schedule. I recommend planning your seminar schedule ahead of time, noting seminars that are absolute must-sees, since you may not have time, or energy, to attend all on your list.

It is worth saying again (see 6.): To get from a main floor event in the southeast corner, via crowded floors and escalators, to a seminar on the upper level in the northwest corner can take a long time!

12. Remember to plan time to rest, have lunch, a snack, and restroom breaks

… each of which can easily take 20-30 minutes depending on time and location (see 11.)

There are numerous café options offering sandwiches for sale, a few hotel restaurants right outside the fair area (you’ll show your entrance ticket to get back in) and a larger restaurant, Estrad, on the second level in the southwest corner (you can order lunch tickets ahead of time, get there early to avoid lines).

13. Networking opportunities

Many publishers, magazines, and organizations arrange mingling and networking opportunities, usually on Thursday or Friday evening, some at the fair, some at other locations. Check their social media to find out more and to sign up.

14. If you are a writer with an unpublished script, this is not the time to contact a publisher

They are way too busy and may not appreciate being cornered during one of the busiest weeks of the year. However, you can always look for mingling and networking opportunities (see 13.)

15. And lastly, enjoy yourself!

Going to the Göteborg Book Fair is time well spent! Enjoy browsing the many exhibits, meeting like-minded people interested in reading and literature, going to seminars, and maybe meeting your favorite writers!

You may also like this post, an Introduction and Guide in English to the Göteborg Book Fair.

Tips för engelskspråkiga besökare till Göteborgs bokmässa.

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