International Book Fairs: Leipzig’s Cancellation Spotlights the Calendar

In News by Porter Anderson

This month’s cancellation of Leipzig Book Fair points to the shifting outlook for various major book publishing events as COVID-19 vaccination timelines remain unclear.

Image: LB, Ulrich Koch

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

Leipzig: ‘With Great Sorry and a Heavy Heart’
In what feels immediately like déjà vu, Leipzig Book Fair’s cancellation this month of its planned physical fair is a reminder that for all the promise of vaccinations and progress in combating the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the international publishing trade show and book fair circuit remains unsure of its calendar.

The announcement from Leipzig Book Fair’s organizers had a forlorn tone, reading, “It’s with great sorrow and a heavy heart that we must inform you that this year’s Leipzig Book Fair, scheduled for May 27 to 30, will not take place. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the current measures and restrictions on travel, as well as the associated planning uncertainty for exhibitors and program participants, make it impossible to hold an event of this magnitude.

“The same applies to the Manga-Comic-Con, the Leipzig liest reading festival and the Leipzig Antiquarian Book Fair.

“Nevertheless, there will be selected literary events this May to tide us over until March 2022. Further steps regarding registration and event concepts will be communicated to you in due time.”

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, however, the picture at this point in the year is not of the fast domino fall of spring 2020 when the pathogen’s outbreaks were arriving with such force.

A Quick Overview of Fairs and Dates

At Leipziger Buchmesse. Image: LB, Ulrich Koch

All subject to change, as we know, here are some plans and changes we know about to date.

  • In England, the Independent Publishers Guild, IPG, has announced an International Publishers Forum for March 9 and 10, a new event.
  • London Book Fair remains, organizers say, committed to its announced physical-program dates of June 29 to July 1.
  • Tucking itself right in before London, Bologna Children’s Book Fair has scheduled itself for June 14 to 17, and at this point it, too, is holding to those dates for a physical evocation of the world’s largest trade show focused on the children’s book market.
  • In an interesting two-pronged approach, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, Spain’s Feria del Libro de Madrid has chosen two sets of dates for its 80th iteration, June 11 to 27, and—in case that’s not possible—September 10 to 26.
  • At this point, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is standing with its dates of May 23 to 29, right across the dates that Leipzig was holding before its cancellation. And two of the very few major fairs to succeed in producing physical-and-digital hybrid iterations so far are in the United Arab Emirates.

In the autumn, the Sharjah International Book Fair drew 382,000 attendees to its programming, and this month, the neighboring emirate, Dubai, has held a three-weekend physical-and-digital hybrid presentation of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature—we anticipate news on attendance figures there soon. The UAE continues with an aggressive vaccination program, as the Khaleej Times reports Dubai’s receipt of a new supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

There are reports, however, that tourism since January 1 appears to be prompting the highest death tolls and spikes in cases in the UAE so far in the pandemic. A Gulf News report from Tawfiq Nasrallah cites a concerning jump today (February 16) to 3,236 new cases in the UAE.

Quickly, at the moment, we see these further listings among other book related fairs and trade shows in 2021.

  • The Havana International Book Fair, originally scheduled for this month, was cancelled.
  • As Publishing Perspectives has announced, the demise of BookExpo in New York City is to give way, May 26 to 28, to a new “US Book Show” event, May 26 to 28.
  • Sweden’s Gothenburg Book Fair in September is reported to be considering a digital show.
  • As we reported, Taipei International Book Exhibition had to be produced entirely digitally–cancelling its planned physical component only days before opening because of a sudden outbreak of the contagion. The program has responded, however, by greatly extending its run to a full four months online.
  • Paris’ Salon du Livre currently shows dates of May 28 to 31.
  • Thessaloniki’s huge public-facing fair remains scheduled for September and October.

And the largest of them all, Frankfurter Buchmesse, maintains its dates of October 20 to 24, currently in anticipation of both a physical and digital presentation.

We’ll continue to keep our readers informed as new information arrives.

Flags at Leipziger Buchmesse. Image: LB, Ulrich Koch

More from Publishing Perspectives about international book fairs and similar events is here. And more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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 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.