Coronavirus impact on trade fairs – an update

Livre Paris Book Fair in Paris expected to be canceled

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Statue of young book reader
Young book reader in a park at Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo: IPP

1 March 2020 – The Livre Paris Book Fair, where the Indian book industry was to be the guest of honor this month (20-23 March 2020), is expected to be canceled, as the French government has announced a ban on all in-doors gatherings with more than 5,000 people due to the coronavirus (Covid 19) outbreak. Many of the French book industry staff will fall back for their meetings on the Brussels Book Fair next week, which will take place as scheduled. At the Brussels fair, international attendance is limited to French and Dutch publishers and a handful of African and Middle East participants.

The London Book Fair, still scheduled to take place from 10-12 March 2020, will be severely impacted, as most exhibitors from Asia-Pacific and at least three publishing groups from the US have already canceled their participation. Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Ingram decided not to send their American teams to the fair, whereas Penguin Random House US, has left the decision to the individual staff so far.

The Leipzig Book Fair, also to take place this month, is likely to be canceled altogether, as all trade fairs scheduled for this month in other German and Swiss cities have been canceled. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair has been postponed from March to May, but given the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Northern Italy, many participants expect it to be canceled as well.

Meanwhile, Fespa reports that it reduced its Madrid show due for 24-27 March from five to four halls, as most of the Asian participants had to cancel. In the coming weeks, the show is expected to shrink further, if not canceled, as more than one-third of Fespa’s exhibitors are companies from Asia-Pacific. Among these are 150 are from mainland China alone which is why one hall has already been canceled. 

The number of small and large enterprises reporting supply chain shortages and drops in turnover is rising by the day. The industry is holding its breath as to the fate of other trade fairs to be held this year, in particular Interpack, drupa, All-in-Print, and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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Editor of Indian Printer and Publisher since 1979 and Packaging South Asia since 2007. Trained as an offset printer and IBM 360 computer programmer. Active in the movement to implement Indian scripts for computer-aided typesetting. Worked as a consultant and trainer to the Indian print and newspaper industry. Visiting faculty of IDC at IIT Powai in the 1990s. Also founder of IPP Services, Training and Research and has worked as its principal industry researcher since 1999. Author of book: Miracle of Indian Democracy.

2 COMMENTS

  1. 320 am on 3 March 2020, New Delhi. News came in about 10 hours ago, that the Livre Paris Book fair has in fact been cancelled. The French government has banned indoor gatherings of 5,000 persons or more.

    Meanwhile more US publishers and US subsidiaries have pulled out of the London Book Fair from 10 to 12 March including Hachette and Amazon. The UK government is expected to announce its action plan later today. Watch this space.

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