The Lisbon Book Fair will take place at Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon, between May 29 and June 16, reaching its maximum limit in terms of growth, which leaves the organisers with a challenge for the future, commented the president of the Portuguese Publishers and Booksellers Association (APEL), Pedro Sobral.

Despite reaching its limit, requests for new participants continue to increase, which in the future could mean sacrificing the allocation of some pavilions, because removing the book fair from Parque Eduardo is out of the question, he said, considering that “the Lisbon Book Fair only makes sense there”.

“Parque Eduardo VII is the cornerstone of this fair, it’s one of the most critical factors in all this success, because it’s central, in the open, and regardless of the ramps and the rough terrain, it’s a place where people like to walk”, Pedro Sobral explained.

In addition to the books, the event also includes music shows, an open-air cinema, restaurants, terraces, as well as parking space and transport access, which justify keeping the fair in that location, and Pedro Sobral stated that is preferable to “sacrifice or at least complicate” the challenge of allocating pavilions, “always giving priority to new participants”.

Given the size the Lisbon Book Fair has reached this year, 10 more pavilions are planned than last year, for a total of 350, with 960 publishing brands, represented by 140 participants and 85,000 titles available.

The main focus this year is on improving accessibility for people with reduced mobility, thanks to a protocol signed with Access Lab (a company that works on accessibility in Portugal, for the right of culture for people with disabilities) for the next three years.

After investing in sustainability, the organisation is now working on the issue of inclusion and how to make it easier for people with reduced mobility to visit and attend.

“There are a number of challenges that take time to implement, so we need to do a lot of research, but this year we’re going to have, for example, more toilets with access for people with reduced mobility”, detailed Pedro Sobral, who added that there will also be baby changing facilities, in response to requests from families.

The programming of the fair will also be more accessible, with a specific agenda of events in Portuguese sign language, and the existence of a colour alphabet for the colourblind, which, among other things, helps people find their way around the squares, which are defined by colour.

In this regard, the president of APEL pointed out that there will be two new squares for events, also in response to growing demand. “Last year we had 2,600 events and on Friday of last week, we already had 2,190 booked when normally half the events are booked during the fair itself, so we’re going to far exceed the number of events we had in the previous year”, Pedro Sobral announced.

One of the big novelties this year is the earlier opening hours of the fair – in response to a request from many families – which will now open at 12pm during the week and at 10am at weekends and on public holidays.

Closing time remains at 10pm, with the exception of Saturdays, Fridays, and public holiday eves, when it closes at 11pm.

With regard to the number of visitors expected, Pedro Sobral believes it will reach one million, a figure that is “not relevant” in terms of “breaking records”.

“What’s important to us, and that’s why we’re talking about the million visitors, is that the purpose of the fair, as an engine for training and promoting reading rates, is increasing, because we reach more people, and the more likely that reading rated will be higher and closer to the European Union”, he stressed.

This year’s edition of the Lisbon Book Fair will once again feature the “Camping with stories” initiative, aimed at children, as well as initiatives from the National Reading Plan, namely the creation of the “Reading Consultancy”, which offers suggestions according to the reader’s profile, and the “Donate your books” pavilion.