Should Book Fairs Mix Professionals and the Public?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

book fair crowd

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s lead story looks at troubles bedeviling Paris’ annual Salon du Livre, the city’s premier book fair. One of the issues that has publishers kvetching is the fair’s lack of focus, which mixes professional events with the public. It’s an issue for many fairs — Frankfurt does it successfully, London doesn’t do it, BEA is thinking about doing it. Smaller, less well established fairs, such as those in Abu Dhabi and Cape Town, are still working on finding the right mix. And if you want a place solely to interact with other professionals, well, we know there areĀ plenty of conferences for that.

Last year, we asked whether or not BEA should open its doors to the public and the overwhelming response was “yes.” It seems, to me at least, like the right answer. And the reason, I believe, is because of the digitization of publishing: As the barriers to entry to become a publisher have fallen to virtually nothing, the established publishing brands will need a way to communicate to the broader public — many of whom may consider themselves writers and even publishers — the kinds of services that they can offer that are superior to those more widely available and at lower cost.

Publishers need, to put it bluntly, to market themselves like they have never done before. A book fair is the best, and potentially, most cost efficient way to do this. The opening of BEA and other fairs to the public will signal a willingness on the part of publishers to work with their customers, again, in a way that hasn’t been done before. Of course, this will require a re-imagining of the format of the fair itself, which will require hard work. But at the end of the day, I can only see an upside.

Let us know what you think in the comments below or via Twitter using #ppdiscuss.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.