London Book Fair 2008

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WESSWeb > European Book Fairs > London Book Fair > 2008 Report

Click here for numerous photographic images of the 2008 London Book Fair
Photos/Richard Hacken, BYU

The London Book Fair, which assembles each April at Earls Court, advertises itself variously as "the leading spring book publishing and rights trading event" or "...the global publishing community's leading spring forum for booksellers, publishers, librarians and book production services worldwide." * Although librarians are sought and welcomed as part of the audience, and though surely the fair is of considerable interest to said librarians, a cursory stroll through the aisles gives the impression that rights management and rights transference and rights trading and translation rights wrangling are at the heart of the LBF. Despite the Mussolini-esque facade of its main building, Earls Court houses, in the days of the London Book Fair (April 14-16 this year, neatly setting brackets around the U.S. tax deadline), a tribute to bibliodemocracy and to the spirit of robust capitalism. As a matter of fact, a guarded escalator led to a second floor to be trodden upon only by those with credentials in rights management. The motto of the fair as found on its website encourages simply to: "Be there when the market springs to life."
Still, as suggested, the appeal to the librarian is unabated. The cost of admittance, if arranged from afar in advance, amounts to a mere 10 Pounds Sterling (this is a bargain, even with the dollar scraping the basement). And the care and attention to the attendee before and after the event (not to mention during it) are unparalleled in my experience: correspondence and reminders and welcomes and post-event thanks and post-event audit trails and post-event surveys are all part of the impression that the management of the London Book Fair is concerned with grooming and keeping repeat customers. And well it might from a competitive point of view, since the Frankfurt Book Fair is literally ten times the fair (in size, hoopla and reputation) that this one is. But I'll be back.
The seminars I attended were aimed at publishers ("How to Digitise Your Content") and translators ("Perils and Pleasures of Translation"), yet I was strangely captivated by the informative and entertaining interchanges. They came from a different place, bibliographically, than the one I occupy, and as such they give me a window into new aspects and fresh thinking. To say it all: I had arrived from overseas less than a day before but found myself awake and alert. I can easily say that the seminars were a highlight of the fair for me.
The booths themselves were organised into relevant realms: academic and STM titles, children's books, international publishing, remainders, and so forth. At the center of it all, between the two grand halls, stood the "market focus" of this year's LBF: the Arab World. From a model of Mecca with its virtual hajj, to the expensive and intimidating sterility of the white-as-desert-sands Abu Dhabi booth, to an eye-opening display of all the well-known words Arabic has lent to the world (not just "algebra"), this was more than a show of Middle Eastern books; it was a rhetorical and cultural appeal for understanding.
European publishers were clustered by region or country, but the vendors well known to North America were in absentia, realizing, no doubt, that the number of librarian visitors would be small. One of the busiest booths, if we may look to the future of the bibliographic (and political) world, was dedicated to Chinese publications.
Book trends and cutting-edge publishing technologies may not be premiered at the London Book Fair, but you can check them out a few months after their first buzz, all in an atmosphere of almost quiet contemplation. If Frankfurt is a buzz-saw of activity on all levels, London is the place for peaceful strolls, leisurely chats with exhibitors and a chance to take in the full perspective within a couple of days. You'll leave wishing for more but not wracked with anxiety or regret at all the spaces you had no time to visit.
Don't forget the book readings, and don't miss out on the boxes of Turkish Delight being distributed by an Ankara charity.
- Richard Hacken

* The Prime Minister of British realms visited on the opening day this year: in his remarks, PM Gordon Brown posited the now-famous Eastern Atlantic "Panlibri Theorem" when he suggested: "Books are everything." This contrasts sharply with the discredited Western Atlantic "Null Set Reuters Snub" advanced by George W. Bush, which states: "Newspapers are nothing."

WESSWeb > European Book Fairs > London Book Fair > 2008 Report

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