By Lynn Andriani -- reporting for Publishers Weekly, 4/22/2009
For a fair that was predicted by many to be quieter than years past, the London Book Fair has been busy by many accounts (fair organizers have not released official attendance figures yet). On Wednesday, the fair's final day, attendees were walking the show floor in the early morning, and meeting tables at most stands continued to be filled. “Overall attendance may not be that great, but the quality of the attendance has been phenomenal,” said Frank Daniels, chief commercial officer of Ingram Digital. “People are very focused,” he said, and those who did show up “came to do business.”
Rudy Vanschoonbeek of Uitgeverij Vrijdag in Antwerp, which publishes general fiction and nonfiction in Dutch, also commented on the quality of attendees. “We have fewer appointments but the quality of the appointments has been better. There’s more time to talk about projects,” he said. Kumar Vikram of India’s National Book Trust, which has a stand at the Indian pavilion of Earls Court, also was having a productive fair; as was Gisela Klinkenberg of the Swiss Publishers Association, who said she was “very satisfied” with the amount of business she and her colleagues conducted at the fair. Klinkenberg’s association represents 28 Swiss publishers, and she said, “Our publishers realize the London Book Fair is really important.”
One of the biggest (if not the biggest) topic of conversation this year is digital publishing; European publishers seem excited to delve into a market that is just awakening on this side of the pond. Numerous foreign publishers mentioned that they were preparing their content to be e-book ready, and Ingram Digital’s Daniels said his conversations with foreign publishers have been less about education and more about execution.
Not everyone was upbeat, of course. Emile Farley, who works in rights at Berlitz Publishing, said the fair has been quiet, with fewer people and fewer stands. And Jonny Illingworth of British publisher Igloo Books Ltd. said the show has been “fairly good,” though it “does seem quieter on a night out,” referring to the more subdued party scene at this year’s LBF.