BolognaFiere Announces an Online Rights Trading Option

In News by Porter Anderson

In an attempt to maintain its place in international rights for children’s and YA content, Bologna Children’s Book Fair follows its cancellation with news of an online trading program.

At the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2020 news conference announcing the programming that would be postponed and then canceled in the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Image: BCBF

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

The Safety of Virtual Trading
Readers of Publishing Perspectives will remember the wrenching disruption the Bologna Children’s Book Fair experienced in first postponing (in February) and then canceling (in March) its 57th annual edition.

Normally drawing as many as 30,000 book business players from the world industry, the show is where, in fact, many of us would have been right now. It was originally scheduled for March 30 to April 2. Its postponement moved it to May 4 to 7 before Elena Pasoli and her team announced on March 11 that they felt they had to cancel entirely.

Needless to say, the decision was right. Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna is part of the northern end of the country that has seen some 80 percent of the siege.

Even as the United States takes on the world-epicenter lead in case numbers, the tragedy of Italy’s brutal and ongoing experience in the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has become the shuddering emblem of the agony this pathogen can cause. At this writing, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows Italy with 105,792 cases and 12,428 deaths. More than 60 health care workers have lost their lives in the struggle.

We’re reminded now that Stafano Mauri, writing from nearby Milan on March 2 not only warned other international publishing programs to postpone or cancel, but also said to us that a rights-trading center of the kind familiar to publishing at trade shows is “an epidemiologist’s nightmare” with its rows of tables and people speaking directly to each other across small tables for some 30 minutes at a time.

“We feel we have to keep on playing our role as the biggest rights marketplace for children’s content.”Elena Pasoli, Bologna Children's Book Fair

Nevertheless, close to 1,500 exhibitors from 80 countries, Pasoli says, had been registered for this year’s now-lost trade show, and of course rights transactions and meetings are at the heart of what an international book-business trade show is designed to facilitate.

Today (April 1), Pasoli has announced that the company behind the fair, BolognaFiere S.p.A. will open on May 4—the date the show would have opened in its postponement—a digital service called the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Global Rights Exchange.

PubMatch, the online trading platform held by Publishers Weekly and the Combined Book Exhibit, is to operate the offering, reflecting the New York Rights Fair development—the same players—put together for BookExpo. (At this point, Book Expo and its New York Rights Fair is holding postponement dates of July 22 to 24 at the Javits Center in Manhattan, which now hosts an Army Corps of Engineers-built hospital of some 1,000 beds. All of the Big Five publishers have withdrawn from BookExpo 2020.)

Like IPR License, the online trading platform held by Frankfurter Buchmesse with participation from Copyright Clearance Center and China South Publishing & Media Group, PubMatch offers rights sellers and buyers online tools that facilitate and automate literary rights. These services, in the context of a contagion like the coronavirus pandemic, provide a safe transactional format for publishers to consider for their rights portfolios.

2020 Agents and Exhibitors Invited to Participate

In her announcement to the news media this morning, Bologna’s Pasoli writes, all Bologna Children’s Book Fair publisher and literary agent exhibitors registered in 2020 will be invited to participate in the BCBF Global Rights Exchange free of charge.

“They each receive a unique log-in and dashboard,” she writes, “which will allow them to upload title information and PDFs of 25 percent of any book. Publisher and agent visitors registered in 2019 and 2020 are invited to join the platform, too, and will receive a unique log-in code to browse through the offers.”

Zoom video conferencing will be offered for online meetings.

Elena Pasoli

In a prepared statement, Pasoli is quoted, defining an evident problem for Bologna and its need to hang onto its position in rights trading in children’s and YA literature.

We feel we have to keep on playing our role as the biggest rights marketplace for children’s content,” she says, “despite the fair’s cancellation. And here we are, offering the business stage and the creative highlights of the industry, with the aim of expanding even more the reach of the magnificent work of children’s book publishers, agents, illustrators, authors and licensing professionals.”

Jon Malinowski

For PubMatch, the site’s founder, Jon Malinowski, says, “The Bologna Children’s Book Fair Global Rights Exchange will be as close to being at a book fair, sitting across the table and having a meeting, as we can come in this environment.

“With international book fairs canceling because of COVID-19, the need to create new and innovative ways to continue the business of buying and selling rights is more important now than ever.”

And in Ravena, Marco Momoli, who was for almost 30 years with BolognaFiere, is quoted, saying, “We’ve been invited to take a step forward by the worldwide COVID-19 emergency: creating the BCBF Global Rights Exchange is not meant as simply a replacement for the fair. We mean to meet the challenge and explore new ways to expand our BCBF event network.

“This time, the appointment is not a location or a fairground; it’s a global exchange platform, so-called virtual, but very much real in the business it will perform.”

A March 31 shot from Bologna. Image – iStockphoto: Saurav Paswan

More from Publishing Perspectives on rights trading in publishing, including our Rights Roundups, is here, more on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, and more on the coronavirus outbreak is here.

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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 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.