Volcano Threatens London Book Fair’s Digital Day

In Guest Contributors by Liz Bury

LBF Digital Conference

By Liz Bury

By now it’s well known that plumes of volcanic ash from an eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southern Iceland have drifted across the Atlantic to cover Europe at high altitude. The ash is damaging to aircraft engines and the UK National Air Traffic Service announced that all the country’s airports have been shut down until at least 13:00 BST Friday, 16 April. Airports in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, France, Denmark, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands have also been affected and several thousand flights have been canceled, forcing many who’d plan to travel to the London Book Fair to alter their plans.

What’s more, the disruption could potentially continue the entire weekend.

Yes, it sounds like the plot of a futuristic debut novel, but I doubt any of the publishers on their way to the London Book Fair would be interested in signing it up…

International publishers are a huge feature of London Book Fair. South Africa is the Market Focus this year and a band of its publishers and authors are due in town to promote the country’s literature. Chinese and Russian authors, and Arabian poets are in the line-up of seminars and talks, as well.

The Digital Conference on Sunday may be worst affected if the skies are slow to clear. The day’s line-up of presentations and panel discussions mostly comprise UK publishing’s digerati, but dotted through it are US speakers and many audience members from overseas.

The digital day is subtitled “Strategies for Transformation,” and opens with an upbeat-sounding session on how publishers can maximize the potential of their content through creativity and innovation. There will be Pecha Kucha: six short presentations from different digital book businesses. There’s a focus on present and future reading behavior. And among the thornier issues to be tackled, a session on how to begin and to manage change inside publishing houses.

Digital concerns are on top of the agenda throughout the fair. Many seminars focus on the opportunities and threats brought about by digital, with sessions for textbook publishers, children’s publishers, and a peppering of panels on transmedia and screen-based products.

There’s an official focus on comics and graphic novels, with publishers grouped together in the appropriately-named Comics & Graphic Novels Pavilion. Insights into consumers’ preferences and behavior feature too, with a session on reading behavior in South Africa as well as one on e-book consumers. Since the industry is apparently  short of consumer insights, more information about readers and book buyers is a welcome addition to the schedule.

For those hoping to fly out over the weekend, a good place to check for updates might be UK news sites http://www.guardian.co.uk/ or http://www.bbc.co.uk/. The Guardian has a useful feature which allows you to track the movement of the volcanic ash across the continent.

Up to 800 people have been displaced in Iceland due to widespread flooding caused by the eruption. Here’s hoping they’re home soon, and that everyone who has planned a trip to London Book Fair makes it over here on time!

DISCUSS: If you get canceled, will you rebook for London? And what is it that you are most looking forward to most at this year’s fair?

About the Author

Liz Bury


Liz Bury has been a writer and editor for 20 years, covering books, design and business risk. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Building Design and The Bookseller, among other publications. She can be found tweeting rarely @lizziebbrown and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/liz-bury-88356a16.