Deals done despite ‘forlorn’ LBF
20.04.10 | The Bookseller News Team

Travel chaos will not stop publishers and agents from conducting business, Tim Hely Hutchinson, Hachette chief executive, has told The Bookseller Daily. He estimated about half of Hachette’s overseas contacts had not shown up, but said “no major deal will not happen”.

The 39th fair opened yesterday (19th April) with exhibitors describing the opening day as “forlorn” and “surreal”, and fair organisers running a survey about the possibility of holding a “missed appointments” day on Thursday (23rd April), after the event had officially closed.

An LBF spokesperson said 20% to 22% of staff manning stands were absent, while 20 of the first day’s 87 seminars had to be cancelled; some publishers reported international meetings down by two-thirds.

Andrew Franklin, m.d. of Profile, said: “It’s looking really forlorn. It’s been very hard to conduct business because there is no one here to conduct it with. It may make people realise that you don’t need to be here.” He estimated the rights centre was down at least 50%. Peter Usborne, founder and chairman of Usborne, said: “It’s been devastated by the cancellations: it’s really degenerated into mayhem. But there is enough left, and we don’t depend on fairs anyway.”

Simon Master, LBF advisory board member, estimated day one attendance was down by a third. “The huge disappointment is the South African delegation—it’s a real tragedy,” he added. Master went on to pay tribute to the LBF team for reconfiguring events over the weekend. Fair director Alistair Burtenshaw said there had been “pockets of success”, highlighting well-attended seminars and the digital conference held on Sunday (18th April). He highlighted extra events—such as the “Not the London Book Fair” link up with South Africa-based bookshop Book Lounge, to broadcast seminars into London—as an example of people pulling together.

Starting today (21st April), extra support is being offered at the International Welcome Point, including assisting those who may find themselves stranded in the UK if the air ban continues, as well as a massage service.

Random House head Gail Rebuck—whose Monday night party was affected by the absence of special guest Tony Blair—raised a question mark over suggestions Book Expo America could replace LBF. “That assumes we’re back into normal flying times.”

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