IPA’s ‘Global Book Fair Report 2017: ‘Propelling Rights Deals’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

‘In a sense, a book fair is a catalyst that propels rights deals towards completion,’ reads the introduction to the IPA’s new 2017 Global Book Fair Report.

From the IPA Global Book Fair Report 2017

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Trade: ‘The Most Dynamic Activity of Fairs’
Each year, the International Publishers Association (IPA) takes on the task of analyzing international book fairs for its IPA Global Book Fair Report. Fairs, festivals, and trade shows are produced in different markets by different players and with different intents.

Key among the distinctions, of course, is whether a particular book fair is primarily industry- or consumer-facing. The trend in many places, even for traditionally consumer-oriented shows, is the addition of a “professional program” that might include rights trading on a small scale.

The IPA Global Book Fair Report 2017, a PDF download of 34 pages, divides events into geographic regions. The report takes into account many other features and variances among world book outings. In its introduction, for example, we read, “While some [fairs] require a serious advance preparation in terms of making contact with potential business partners and arranging professional appointments, such as Frankfurt and London, others allow visitors more spontaneity, such as Cairo and Guadalajara.

“The book market is restructuring. Production is currently concentrated but has a long tail. One in six publishers, or 159 in total, produce 70 percent of all titles.”IPA Global Book Fair Report 2017, Notes on Greece's Market

According to the report, “a glance at the comments by first-time visitors reveals that the standout recommendation for those discovering these ‘new territories’ is to lock down some appointments in advance, and leave time for discovery, chance encounters and the unknown.”

Another and less frequently noted benefit of the international industry’s many fair events brought to light in the IPA’s introduction is the educational function.

“Book fairs serve an important educational purpose for book trade professionals,” the IPA’s introduction reads, “apprising them of key trends through seminars, conferences, panel discussions, presentations and fellowship programs. And book fairs offer a range of events designed to facilitate networking.”

The Frankfurt Book Fair stand at London Book Fair in March featured German books from a wide range of publishers. Image: Porter Anderson

Fair Trade

“Frankfurt Book Fair has established itself as the biggest international trade book fair,” the IPA writes, “while the five other top fairs in terms of professional attendance happen in: London (the largest spring fair), Bologna (specialized in children’s books), Guadalajara (the gateway to Latin America) and New York (BookExpo – the main market place for US publishers).

“In recent years’ interviews, we learnt about the untapped potential of the Nigerians and their book market, but also the rampant piracy that it faces – 75% of books are estimated as illegal copies.”IPA Global Book Fair Report 2017, Notes on Nigeria's Market

“While these long-established fairs have plateaued somewhat in terms of their growth, newcomers are growing fast, such as Beijing and Shanghai (specialized in children’s books) in China, and the Indonesia International Book Fair, in Jakarta.

“There are also new additions such as Baku’s biennial book fair, which will hold its fifth edition this year, and the Eurasian Book Fair, in Astana, with its second edition in 2017.”

What’s clear from the IPA’s high-level overview of the book fair scene is, as its introduction states, that “The main function of professional book fairs is to be a market place for trade professionals. Book rights are bought and sold, and agents pitch new titles to publishers.

“In recent years, buying and selling rights has become the most dynamic activity of fairs.”

And while the driving engine of many book fairs is business, this doesn’t diminish the importance of consumer engagement. Many key events begin as entirely public-facing events, then evolve to include more B2B activity for the industry.

From the IPA Global Book Fair Report 2017

Statistics and Insights

The IPA’s report has many useful and telling bits of information. From each of its geographical regions, it selects one event for a special focus. In the Americas, for example, the IPA looks carefully, as we have done at Publishing Perspectives, at the Guadalajara International Book Fair.

Africa’s concentration in this year’s report falls on Nigeria, where “75 percent of books are estimated to be illegal copies,” the report tells us. As in many instances, the report has a collection of useful facts on the market in question, here including the Nigerian scene’s population age: 43 percent 14 and younger, 19.5 percent 15 to 24 years old.

As we’ve learned with the Aldus Network report on European fairs—which IPA calls out for special attention, too—the sheer numbers of consumer-visitors at some of these events can be most impressive.

Taipei (a February show, imagine that) will draw some 560,000 visitors to nearly 700 exhibitors; New Delhi (a January show, what a concept) this year saw some 886,000 visitors and had some 1,150 Indian and non-Indian exhibitors. Vilnius, on the other hand, sees 67,820 visitors, Brussels 70,000 visitors, the just-closed Leipzig roughly 260,000 visitors, and Torino a handsome 276,179 visitors.

Great and Small

Size matters differently, of course, from show to show, but it matters to each in one way or another.

Especially welcome is the report’s focus on Greece, such a hard-hit economy and market, bravely soldiering on: “Fewer than 50 percent of Greeks are regular book readers,” the IPA reports, “while 42.3 percent of people aged 15 or over read at least one book per year (source: National Book Centre, Reading Behavior Survey, 2010)…In recent years, there was a sharp decline (–37 percent) in the number of new titles published in Greece: 10,680 titles in 2008 to approximately 6,700 titles in 2015.”

Such are the nuggets of insight in the IPA’s report. Again, it’s available free, as a PDF here, and more about its publication is here at the IPA’s site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.