LBF to assess impact of reduced attendance after show closes
21.04.10 | Philip Jones
The London Book Fair has said that it will begin exploring “a number of options in recognition of the knock-on effect of reduced attendance” after the fair has closed today (21st April). Publishers and agents spoken to by The Bookseller on the final day remained surprisingly upbeat about the show, with widespread relief that overseas exhibitors could at least have easier return journeys after UK airspace finally reopened overnight.
A letter from LBF distributed to exhibitors on the final day estimated that overall attendance was down by a third. “I would not want you to be under the impression that we have not considered the impact that this has had on your experience of the fair,” the letter read, “we are in the process of considering a number of options in recognition of the knock-on effect of reduced attendance”.
LBF declined to discuss the options under consideration. As The Bookseller reported this morning, the LBF’s advisory committee will meet tomorrow (22nd April) in order to assess this year’s fair, as well as discussing the 40th anniversary show next year. The show has been widely praised for its management of the crisis, with daily letters distributed to exhibitors updating them on the travel issues and subsequent disruption to events.
Though acknowledging that “north of 50%” of its meetings had been cancelled, Faber chief executive Stephen Page said the “conversations that we have had have been excellent”. He added: “In a strange way it has sort of cemented how important this fair is and I’m looking forward to a programme of the 40th edition that should get the pulses racing.”
Page said no decision had been made yet on sending extra staff for to Book Expo America, though a number of attendees have told The Bookseller that they could reprioritise both BEA and Frankfurt as a result of the missed meetings in London. BEA’s Steven Rosato said some US publishers had been booking extra meeting space for the event in anticipation of increased attendance. But speaking to The Bookseller’s German correspondent Anja Sieg, Susanne Rudloff of the Frankfurt Book Fair said it had so far not noticed an increase in enquiries.
Peter Fiell, of publisher Fiell which launched its debut list at LBF, said: “It’s been a surprisingly good fair; the 30% of meetings we did have were really good conversations. And there were serendipitous meetings that we never would have had. It just means that BEA will be more important.”
Carole Biss, m.d. of Book Guild Publishing, said: “It’s been like the old days really, you actually had time to meet with people and the chance meetings have been very productive; we’ve done business with people we would never have talked to. And it’s the first time we’ve never been approached by a foreign printer because none of them are here.”
One less positive comment came from the US agent Robert Gottlieb, who travelled to the fair “via Ireland and then the ferry”. In a comment left on Publishers Marketplace, Gottlieb wrote: “I will say that I and others are considering whether the London Book Fair is money well spent. So many of the buyers are coming over for the BEA and at the same time email and computers allow for fast and easy transatlantic communications.”