London Book Fair looks to turn new corner

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Reed Exhibitions’ London Book Fair (LBF) wants to be the essential hub for serious players in the global publishing industry, and this year, with their ‘Love Learning’ programme, the organiser didn’t disappoint. Walking around the Earls Court show, it was hard not to fall into the buzz of conversation as professionals from across the media discussed the most innovative, impressive and controversial developments within the industry. It was neither books nor paper that proved a hot topic on the show floor however, but a note of caution surrounding European markets. “I get a real sense from Europeans, especially the Spanish and Italians, that they are virtually suicidal about their markets,” said Pan Macmillan, publisher of adult fiction, Jeremy Trevathan. “You spend the first 10–20 minutes of your meeting talking to them about that, before books.” Insisting optimism in Europe is still strong, organisers chose Turkey as this year’s Market Focus, providing publishers with a better understanding of its specific publishing industry. “We were delighted to see the culmination of several years of planning to deliver the 10th Market Focus… Turkey has a rapidly growing publishing industry and is a very important market for UK and international publishers,” said LBF’s newly appointed event director Jacks Thomas. Six seminars ran in partnership with the UK Publishers Association, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish National Organizing Committee. The ‘Spring’ show was first launched in 1971, and this year attracted more than 25,000 visitors and had around 1,500 exhibitors, on 15-17 April, according to Reed.  In January, Thomas moved from self-confessed avid reader to avid event organiser. The appointment followed the departure of former group director Alistair Burtenshaw, who left to become president of the Paris Cookbook Fair 2013 and chair of literary charity Booktrust. Thomas has been involved with the fair for six years in her role as CEO of Midas PR, the show’s PR company, and has brought her 20 years of experience within the UK and international book industries to the show. “I believe the fair is a reflection of the publishing industry and its trends,” Thomas told EN. “Publishers, agents and businesses make deals and relationships, and, hopefully discover the next big thing.” Penguin’s digital managing director Anna Rafferty agrees that relationship building is key to an event like this, explaining that publishers should have fewer ‘one night stands’ with their readers and cultivate long-term relationships. Thomas said the themes resulting from this year’s show were innovation and evolution, with the topic of ‘ebooks vs paperbooks’ being “exactly the type of debate that the Book Fair continues to provide an open forum for the industry to discuss.” Eyebrows were raised throughout the 250 seminars, particularly in The Great Debate, where professionals discussed the impact of Amazon on the industry, and whether or not it was a possibility that the online giant would build physical ‘bricks and mortar’ book stores. The Digital Zone continued the ongoing war between paper and electronics, in its three-day presentations and demonstrations, playing host to over 60 companies, including suppliers of CMS, e-distribution, platforms, devices, mobile, and e-readers. Authors Elif Shafak, Liz Pichon and William Boyd featured as the Authors of the Day showcasing their work across a programme of seminars, book signings and events. Here, William Boyd announced the title of the new James Bond book, Solo. Thomas believes the differences made to this year’s show such as the re-launch of the Children’s Innovation theatre, the expansion of the Author Lounge and the launch of a literary ‘pop-up’ version of The Club at The Ivy were crucial to the attendees enjoyment of the fair. “What’s more, following attendee feedback over the past couple of years and consultation with the LBF Advisory Board, it has become apparent that the majority of our attendees would prefer the entire book fair programme to take place during the normal working week,” said Thomas. To that end, from next year, the Digital Minds Conference will take place on 7 April and the fair itself will run from 8-10 April. And a new chapter in the history of this long-running trade show will begin. This was first published in the May edition of EN. Any comments? Email exhibtionews@mashmedia.net
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