International book fair organizers over-optimistic?

Restructuring hits the book and bookfair industry

Leipzig Buchmesse
The Leipzig Book Fair for 2021 has been cancelled. Photo Leipzig Buchmesse 2019

Despite the first anti-Covid vaccination kick-offs, the year 2021 still looks very similar to its predecessor. Trade fairs continue to be canceled, rescheduled, and canceled again. The Frankfurt Book Fair is sticking to its traditional 5-day planning in October. Still, its organizers are cautious and well-prepared for either staging a combined physical and digital event or skipping the physical show for its online-only version. 

Leipzig Buchmesse cancels 2021

Other book fairs are working on different approaches to the uncertainties of this year’s health crisis, each in their own way. Due to a number of earlier postponements, the months of May and June are still on the agenda for a series of major book fairs, but the question is whether the tight scheduling hasn’t been too optimistic. Germany’s second-largest book fair, Leipzig Buchmesse, recently canceled its 2021 edition scheduled for May to end the planning uncertainty for exhibitors and program participants. Nevertheless, its organizers hope that they can organize some selected literary events in May “to tide us over until March 2022”. 

Brussels skips, Abu Dhabi, Paris, Bologna & Madrid still on

The Brussels Book Fair, Foire du Livre, decided to skip the event this year and instead organize small literary gatherings in the streets during May. The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is still planned as a physical event from 23 to 29 May. The Paris Book Fair, Livre Paris, is also still on from 28 to 31 May. So are the Bologna Children’s Book Fair scheduled for 14 to 17 June, and the London Book Fair, to be held 29 June to 1 July. Madrid’s Feria del Libro chose to anticipate by proposing two sets of dates for its 80th edition: 11 to 27 June, or, if not possible, 10 to 26 September. 

Publishers Weekly’s first online Book Show

Hardly two months after Reed’s decision to send BookExpo into ‘retirement,’ US trade magazine Publishers Weekly announced it would launch a new publishing trade fair in New York, the US Book Show. Its first edition will be held online-only between 26 and 28 May 2021. Its programming will be limited to five hours per day to facilitate networking and pausing for booksellers, librarians, publishers, and literary agents from various time zones across the US and the world. 

Even though Publishers Weekly has no prior experience in setting up trade fairs, it has a long history as the leading platform for the US book industry. Established in 1872 and subsequently owned by the RR Bowker Company, it was bought by Xerox in 1967 and by Reed in 1985, before its present owner, George Slowik’s PWxyz, took over in 2010 and partnered with Nielsen’s BookScan to optimize the magazine’s extensive book sales lists. Its international profile has since been expanded with its participation in the Global 50 publishers ranking and the creation of Pubmatch, a set of digital tools for international rights selling. Publishers Weekly has also been instrumental in the 2015 launch of the annual Global Kids Connect conference, taking place in December in New York in collaboration with the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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