London and Bologna attract Asian exhibitors

From The European Book Fairs

The Frankfurt Book Fair’s stand at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair this year. Photo FBF

For some Indian publishers and service providers, the London Book Fair seems to remain more important than its Frankfurt counterpart. At the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, the number of exhibitors from India had dropped to 38 from 60-70 in previous years, whereas London, for the past 10 years or so, has kept attracting between 50 and 60 exhibitors from India year-onyear. This year, more than 55 printers, software companies, publishers, agencies and distributors from India had stands at the London Book Fair, of whom 18 had already participated in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair a week earlier. 

At LBF’s 45th edition, which ran from 12 to 14 April, India represented again the fourth-largest exhibitor group after the UK, the US and France. Exhibitors from AsiaPacific included companies from China (18), Australia (15), Singapore (13), Korea (12), Japan (6), Malaysia (6), Pakistan (3), Indonesia (1) and Thailand (1). Total attendance at LBF amounted to 1,600 exhibitors, 600 rights tables and 25,000 visitors, with the largest groups of visitors coming from Western Europe, North America and Russia.

Rights trading at the London Book Fair comprises the sales and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film, web, games and other digital channels. New at this year’s fair was the establishment of the Total Licensing Lounge, where multiple business matching sessions were organized over the three days of the show. Representatives from some of the largest publishing houses and experts from different aspects of the licensing industry assisted companies with matchmaking and client prospection.

The annual Congress of the International Publishers Association took place for the first time near the LBF premises at the Olympia’s Grand Hall. Sponsored by the Sharjah Book Authority, the International Publishers Congress lasted three days. Speakers from 17 countries, including from India the CEO of Juggernaut Books, Chiki Sarkar, led discussions on creativity, censorship, eCommerce, eLearning and scholarly publishing. LBF’s own Quantum Conference mainly consisted of a debate on the challenges raised by Amazon for publishers and booksellers. Stephen Page, the publisher of Faber & Faber, and James Daunt, MD of the Waterstones chain of bookshops, basically acknowledged that it would be a ‘complete fantasy’ to try and compete with Amazon in terms of online sales, but were still rather optimistic about the potentially ‘addictive’ quality of physical shopping in a good bookshop.

Bologna Children’s Book Fair 

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which took place from 4 to 7 April, brought together 1,300 exhibitors, 100 rights tables and an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 professional visitors. Among the exhibitors, Korea with 47, China with 45 and India with 18 booths represented the largest groups from Asia, confirming a trend which has been persisting at Bologna for the past 10 years. Other exhibitors included companies from Japan (15), Taiwan (15), Singapore (12), Indonesia (4) and Malaysia (2). Visitor numbers are BCBF’s best-kept secret, but according to the organizers they were up by approximately 9% this year (4% more from Italy and 17% more international visitors).

Next to its core business of trading publishing, translation and crossmedia rights, Bologna is all about book design. One of the best design exhibitions at this year’s fair, if not the best, was a large stand organized by the Frankfurt Book Fair, representing 85 illustrators of books published in Germany. For the first time, BCBF included a Digital Media Hall, including publishers mainly from Korea and the UK, service providers, and presentations by Microsoft, Google and the Walt Disney Company. A separate Licensing Trade Fair pavilion with 60 exhibitors was added to the traditionally closed rights tables space.

Most of the books on show at the Bologna fair are actually not for children but for young adults. The fair’s original and ‘real’ name is Fiera del Libro per Ragazzi, referring to teenage kids (ragazzi) rather than small children (bambini), and indicating that this fair is primarily focussed on publications for teenagers and young adults, who are among the fastest growing segments in the book industry everywhere. BCBF is the place where trends in this area are being set and where deals are prepared that are then often followed up at the other international book fairs, such as LBF and FBF.

The next London Book Fair will run earlier in the year than usual, from 14 to 16 March 2017, with a market focus on Poland. For the first time in its history, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair will not run before LBF but after, i.e., from 3 to 6 April 2017.

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