Aldus Network’s Facts and Figures 2018 Report: Book Fairs in Europe

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The range of purpose, positioning, and public access comes into focus for 16 leading annual book fairs and trade shows of Europe in Aldus’ third report on its network.

The next iteration of Thessaloniki Book Fair is scheduled for May. Image: Aldus

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

Seven Fairs Have Rights Centers, Three Have Licensing
In making its third annual report on its 16 European book fairs in 13 countries, the Aldus network—which is based in Milan—is providing a useful comparative tool to offer a better picture of where book fair and trade show activity stands in Europe, and how various major events are categorized and functioning.

In introductory commentary, the “Facts and Figures” text says, “Aldus contributed to the launch of three new fellowship programs,” this year, “starting from the one by Bologna Children’s Book Fair, followed by Tempo di Libri in Milan–where the fellowship program is organized in in collaboration with Frankfurt Book Fair—and the Rome Book Fair thematic fellowship initiative.”

What’s more, in June of this year, the program created a new global directory of translation grants—as reported by Publishing Perspectives.

A useful development in the evolving annual report on its 16 member fairs and trade shows allows us to assess several comparative features of the membership events which were, in the past, more difficult to discern.

None of the comparative points we draw here are meant to be pejorative, by the way, but informative.

On the face of it, “16 book fairs in Europe” might sound like a collection of quite similar events with folks milling around book stalls and publishers, booksellers, and authors vying for the public’s attention. But in fact, the nature, audience, size, intents and activities of these programs vary widely.

The service Aldus provides with its annual year-end report is that of context: we start to get a higher-level picture, and various elements of the international industry can use this to make better informed decisions about which events they might profitably devote resources to.

Vilnius Book Fair has its next dates set for February 21 to 24. Image: Aldus, Jurga Mizutaviciute

Highlights of the 2018 Aldus Report
  • In 2018, the largest of the Aldus membership fair events by number of visitors reported remains the Madrid Book Fair, a public-facing event, with 2.4 million attendees
  • Spain also has the smallest attendance figure for this year in visitors reported, that figure, 11,200, belonging to the Liber International Book Fair, an industry-facing event
  • After Madrid, the largest attendance figure at a public-facing fair belongs to Lisbon Book Fair, with a tally of 492,000 visitors.
  • Only three of the 16 fairs classify themselves as entirely for professionals–Liber International, Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and the London Book Fair.
  • Five fairs, however, categorize themselves as having elements of both public and professional programming:  Bookfest (Bucharest), the Frankfurter Buchmesse, Göteborg Book Fair, Tempo di Libri (Milan Book Fair), and Thessaloniki Book Fair.
  • In reported numbers of exhibitors, the Frankfurter Buchmesse retains a sizable lead with 7,309 exhibitors reported this year. The next largest number of exhibitors was found at London, listing more than 2,300.
  • Riga Book Fair has the smallest reported number of exhibitors, at around 94.
  • All but two fairs—Madrid and Vienna—report having no B2B area of some kind on-site.
  • All but three fairs—Lisbon, Madrid, and Sofia—report having professional programs.
  • Bring your tape measure along and you’ll find that Madrid Book Fair and Tempo di Libri (Milan) are reporting that their physical presentation comprises 35,000 square meters. The others report smaller footprints—Sofia at the smaller end at 1,300 square meters and Liber International (Barcelona) at 3,741 square meters. The Frankfurter Buchmesse and London Book Fair don’t report in the physical-size section, as their groundplans are so complex. In Frankfurt, the Messe complex houses the fair in many buildings, and the London Olympia facility incorporates, effectively, two buildings’ show floors as well as the conference center.

At Riga Book Fair 2018. The coming iteration in 2018 is set for March 1 to 3. Image: Aldus

Rights, Licensing, and Fellowship Programs

Rights and licensing centers are not as common among the Aldus fairs as might be imagined at a time when rights and licensing are rising in prominence for many publishers.

Nine of the 16 fairs report having no rights centers.

Those seven that do have rights trading centers are:

  • Bologna Children’s Book Fair
  • Bookfest (Bucharest)
  • Frankfurter Buchmesse
  • Göteborg Book Fair
  • London Book Fair
  • Rome Book Fair
  • Tempo di Libri (Milan)

Licensing is even less commonly featured as a specially produced area of trade at the shows overall, with only three reporting that they have licensing centers:

  • Bologna Children’s Book Fair
  • Frankfurter Buchmesse
  • London Book Fair

Fellowship programs—usually devised as trips of several days to a fair and meetings with regional publishers and book industry professionals—are actually less common than might be expected, as well, among these 16 high-visibility fairs.

Only six of the fairs report having fellowship programs, and they are:

  • Bologna Children’s Book Fair
  • Frankfurter Buchmesse
  • Göteborg Book Fair
  • Liber International Book Fair (Barcelona)
  • Rome Book Fair
  • Tempo di Libri (Milan)

At Milan’s Tempo di Libri 2018. Image: Aldus

International Attendance, Event Density

In terms of international draw, the London Book Fair is in the lead this year, reporting 135 countries’ representatives involved, followed by the Frankfurter Buchmesse at 102, and “100+” at Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

And when it comes to how many events may be offered during a fair, the Frankfurter Buchmesse is in the lead with a reported 4,000 events. The Lisbon Book Fair follows with 1,600 events, and the next is Tempo di Libri (Milan) with 850 events.

The Aldus program is co-funded by Creative Europe, now one of the European Union’s most ubiquitous and effective cultural support initiatives. The partnership includes the Italian Publishers Association (AIE), the European Writers’ Council (EWC), and the Federation of European Publishers (FEP).

More information on Aldus is here, and a PDF of the 2018 Fact and Figures report can be downloaded here.

Image: European Book Fairs Facts and Figures 2018, Aldus


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Aldus program is here, and on book fairs overall is here.

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 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.