The London Book Fair, one of the biggest events in the book publishing calendar, kicked off yesterday, with an estimated 23,000 publishers, journalists and industry experts attending from across the world.
Last year’s book fair was disrupted by Iceland’s infamous volcanic ash cloud, which drastically diminished the attendance of the fair. Yesterday thankfully, there was no such disruption, with large queues of people jostling to gain entry to the Earl’s Court Exhibition centre for this exciting and influential publishing event.
The conference (11-13 April 2011) offers a platform for publishers to publicize forthcoming books, buy and sell international book rights, network with fellow publishers and service providers, attend seminars from a variety of experts and purchase extremely expensive sandwiches.
This year the Fair focused particularly on the emerging world of digital publishing, with a preliminary one-day digital conference held on Sunday, followed by a series of seminars at the Fair’s Digital Zone throughout the rest of the conference. These seminars cover a variety of pertinent topics, including e-book distribution, the growing choice of e-reading devices, the ever-increasing dominance of Amazon, and of course, the impact on booksellers themselves.
Underlying this focus on digital publishing is the perception that a tipping point from paper to electronic books is approaching. In the UK, electronic book sales make up about 5% of the market, whereas in the United States, it is up to 10%, with Amazon US announcing recently that it sold more e-books for its Kindle device than paperback books in the last three months of 2010. This, in combination with the the squeeze put on independent booksellers by giants like Amazon, Google and Apple, means that publishers of all kinds are having to adapt quickly to this changing market.
Representatives from Yale University Press maintained a healthy presence at the book fair, operating a busy rights stand, meeting with partners from across the publishing industry and attending a variety of interesting events. Indeed, the London Book Fair is a bustling hive of activity, illustrating that if there are challenges ahead for the industry, publishers and booksellers of all sizes are ready and willing to face these challenges head on.