Book fairs back in business

London, Bologna, Brussels, Geneva, Paris, Leipzig & Frankfurt

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book fair
Out of the 150 or so exhibitors from Asia-Pacific, Indian companies were scattered over 42 booths

Lay down your books now

They’re no damn good.

– The Eagles, Desperado

The European book fair calendar is slowly getting back to normal. The two most important events for the English-language market, the London Book Fair and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, both registered visitor numbers comparable to those before the 2020/2021 pandemic, an increase of around 30% as compared to 2022. Indian participants have also been back to their pre-pandemic numbers. 

With 1,042 exhibitor booths, the London Book Fair was held from 18 to 20 April 2023 and registered some 29,000 visitors over the three days. Out of the 150 or so exhibitors from Asia-Pacific, Indian companies were scattered over 42 booths – 21 publishers and distributors, 15 digital service providers, 4 printing houses, and 2 literary agencies. 

As could be expected, this year’s ‘Spotlight Country’ was Ukraine. The program included a large collective booth for Ukrainian publishers and a series of events with Ukrainian writers, both in-person and remote, in an unprecedented partnership between the Ukrainian Book Institute and the British Council, the UK’s Publishers Association, PEN England, and the International Publishers Association. Alongside multiple author appearances, LBF featured a Writers Summit conference and a seminar program covering a wide range of topics, from artificial intelligence to sustainability, representation, and inclusivity to global trends and opportunities, and ChatGPT to TikTok.

Bologna Children’s Book Fair

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair took place from 6 to 9 March 2023, with 1,456 exhibitors, and was also attended by some 29,000 professional visitors. In its 60th year, BCBF continued its BolognaBookPlus program launched last year, extending the Italian Publishers Association’s rights trading activities to non-children literature. Next to rights trading and a new Guest of Honour program focusing on the book industry of Greece this year, BBPlus featured exhibitions on international versions of the covers of Orwell’s 1984 and Best of the Best Greek jacket covers as well as training sessions on self-publishing and on the role of literary agents and scouting. Also new for this year was a partnership with The Folio Society, which presented three seminars centered around book design and illustration.

At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the South Korean book industry always has a strong presence, with 38 booths the strongest again among Asian exhibitors, next to 29 from Hong Kong, 26 from China, 15 from Taiwan, 8 from Japan, and several companies from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. From India, 18 publishers and 5 printers participated with exhibition stands at BCBF. 

Sponsored by the International Publishers Association and the Italian Publishers Association, the Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year is awarded every year to publishers from six regions. This year, the award for Asia went to Wonder House Books from Noida, an imprint of Prakash Books, one of India’s largest book distributors. Wonder House began activities in 2017 as a small business and has now grown with a large catalog of titles for children, from stories to picture books, activity books to fairy tales. Its mission is to develop children’s passion for reading, expanding their imagination through illustrated books that represent quality, creativity, and innovation.

Brussels, Geneva, Paris & Leipzig book fairs

Among the other major European book fairs this spring, Brussels, Geneva, Paris, and Leipzig were also well attended again, Paris for the second time after the pandemic, and the other three for the first time. Brussels on 4 days, Geneva on 5 days, and Paris on 3 days – each having around 250 exhibitors, attracted between 60,000 and 100,000 visitors, respectively, of whom approximately one-third were trade visitors. The Paris fair, which included the biennial Salon du Livre Africain with more than 60 exhibitors based in Africa, was particularly important for some of the Indian publishers who had initiated deals during last year’s Guest of Honour India program there.

The Leipzig Book Fair took place from 27 to 30 April 2023, with close to 2,500 exhibitors, including a few publishers from South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia this year. The fair attracted some 280,000 visitors over the four days, including more than 60,000 book professionals. For the second time since its launch in 2019, the Manga-Comic-Con trade fair was held in conjunction with the Leipzig Book Fair, bringing together 350 exhibitors and nearly 100,000 visitors. 

Frankfurt Book Fair 75th anniversary

Meanwhile, the Frankfurt Book Fair, scheduled for 18 to 22 October, is getting ready for its 75th anniversary with a year-round campaign under the slogan ‘And the story goes on… .’ In a recent announcement, FBF outlined its thematic line for the event – “Even now, after crisis-ridden Covid-19 years, Frankfurter Buchmesse continues to focus on today’s major issues – war in Europe, climate change, structural racism, freedom of speech, human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, diversity, digital transformation, and much more. At a polarizing time of international upheaval, the anniversary fair in 2023 will once again create a space for understanding and dialog, sending important signals across the globe.”

The next LBF will be held March 12-14, 2024, followed by the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna on April 8-11, 2024. The Book Fairs in Geneva, Leipzig, Brussels, and Paris have been scheduled for March 20-24, March 21-24, March 28-31, and April 12-14, 2024, respectively.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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