Bologna Children’s Book Fair: More Programming Details

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The June digital edition of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair outlines some of its plans for an expanding stretch on the calendar.

Entering the main hall at Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2019. Image: BCBF

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

Bologna’s Announcement of Programming Details
The newly devised Bologna Book Plus program, under Jacks Thomas‘ direction, now is being described as a “sister event” to Elena Pasoli‘s main Bologna Children’s Book Fair, which this year, as we’ve reported, has a partnership with Ricardo Franco Levi‘s Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE).

Bologna Book Plus is more than the June 14 full-day conference (now called “Forging Forward”), which may be what you’ve heard most about so far. Bologna Book Plus is in fact an umbrella label under which many things will be occurring throughout the fair, and thus it runs June 14 to 17, parallel to the fair’s dates.

As has become the token of the trade shows, big numbers are highly prized. Organizers are talking of 60 overall events, comprising presentations, training courses, workshops in design, and conference sessions.

  • Once more, there will be a “24 Hour Portfolio Review Marathon” for illustrators, a digital gallery of artwork, and a solo exhibition by Swiss illustrator Albertine to mark  “Viva Dante,” reflecting the 700th year since Alighieri’s death in Ravenna on September 14, 1321 (when there were very few digital trade shows anywhere). There’s an Illustrators’ Café for this programming, though we’re not sure where on the site it will appear at this point.
  • As usual, a blizzard of branding is the norm, here as in other shows, activities sometimes being grouped under headers that are cuter than they are informative. (You’ll find more branding and marketing opportunities here.)
  • The “Author’s Café” area is where there are to be readings with shortlisted writers in the Premio Strega Ragazzi e Ragazze program. Another “café,” the “Translators’ Café,” is to continue “exploring the translation of children’s books, including a special focus on translating Russian literature.”
  • Exhibitors are to have a listing of their own events somewhere on the show’s site in  a section that so far seems to have escaped branding. (Shhh.)

Last year, as Bologna became the first large-scale effort to translate a publishing trade show to a digital format, there were complaints of disappointment in the  show’s online rights-trading facility. That may be what’s prompting today’s phrasing, which promises “a new, refined, and refreshed format” after “extensive customer feedback.” The “Global Rights Exchange” is available free of charge and “open to all BCBF exhibitors and visitors from 2019 to 2021 inclusive. It’s to remain open through this year and includes a “BLTF” section for “exhibitors and visitors of the Bologna Licensing Trade Fair.”

Ahmed Al Ameri

Guest of Honor Sharjah, led by the Sharjah Book Authority’s Ahmed Al Ameri, is once again the show’s GoH-in-waiting, now set to stage a twice-deferred turn in the spotlight in 2022, when Bologna’s dates are March 21 to 24.

Buying and selling rights to comic books and graphic novels gets a special focus in terms of cross media programming.

That’s to be complemented by a new BolognaRagazzi Crossmedia Award, celebrating the best publishing projects that expand a narrative universe across different media and/or narrative extensions of projects that originated in other media.

Elena Pasoli

In a prepared statement for today’s rather general news, Pasoli is quoted, saying, “The magic of Bologna Children’s Book Fair is its versatility, the incredible variety of content it offers, the relentless quest for the new, the different voices and cultures that meet on the Bologna stage.

“Our commitment in preparing the second online edition was precisely this: to reflect as much as possible the true essence of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, offering at the same time an effective marketplace and a comprehensive program of events, awards, and meetings.”

In running some programming during the past year, she says, “We have learned that the right digital activity, combined with the trade fair in-person, can have not only a brilliant present but an incredible future in terms of continuous dialogue with the children’s book and content community which is so important to us.”

More branding: A new program called “Author Ambassador” is on the list, “celebrating those authors who bridge or cross over the worlds of adult and children’s publishing.”

This effort, apparently under the aegis of the BolognaBooksPlus conference, has chosen Victoria Hislop as the 2021 “Author Ambassador.” Hislop conveniently is to release her first children’s novel, Maria’s Island (Walker Books, June 3).

It’s said to be written in the voice of a child character in her own adult book, The Island (Headline, 2016 republication).

Bologna Book Plus

In the Illustrators’ Café at Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Image: BCBF

Also handed to the press for today are some signs of the four-day footprint of the Bologna Book Plus programming. It’s not only the opening-day full-day conference, but a series of events set on all four days of the fair’s June 14-to-17 plan.

It’s set for a full day conference on June 14, at a price of 99 euros (US$120.81)–ticket purchase is here–with a topical title of “Forging Forward: The Pandemic–An Interruption or an Opportunity To Rethink?” You can see much of the conference day’s schedule here.

  • Also under the banner of Bologna Boo kPlus is a June 15 event called “ReBoot,” described as both a workshop and “a series of events that focuses on the immediate future of the publishing industry.” Also on the 15th, there’s now a “How To Sell Rights and Understand Children’s Licensing” event (which in March had been listed for the 13th), and a conversation between Hislop as “Author Ambassador” and Alexandra Schulman.
  • On the 16th, “How to Self-Publish in Italy” is being programmed for authors and there’s a Literary Translation Forum. After that on the 16th, there’s a “Dante 700” event.
  • On the 17th, “Jackets Off” is a “showcase and review for general trade publishing designers under 35.”
Trade Show Programming Conflicts

Looking at artwork on the wall of illustrations at Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2019, Image: BCBF

While details of dates and times are being updated on June events’ sites, it’s clear that the month of June will test many publishing professionals’ actual interest in trade shows’ extensive use of digital events, with both Bologna Children’s Book Fair and London Book Fair vying for your attention as you work at your desk, at home or back in the office.

When you travel to these valuable programs, of course, you leave your usual office milieu and its demands behind. You can focus on the meetings and business matters to which you’ve flown, driven, or traveled by rail. But when you’re asked to stream hours of daily content into your office so that it competes for your attention, your screen space, and your audio needs—right where all your regular demands are flashing at you—the situation changes dramatically.

While grateful that some level of continuity can be managed online amid the still-challenging coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, complaints have been rising among industry players. Publishing professionals now talk of muting the sound as soon as they log into a Zoom event, so that they appear to be attending but can go on with their day. Others say they’ve begun skipping an event that won’t provide a recording later, so they can try to watch what they need more efficiently, scrolling past the rest.

What complicates the demands of so many events is schedule conflicts, two of which have surfaced in today’s announcement of Bologna activities.

As you’ll remember, London Book Fair on May 6 announced that it was expanding to a three-week format which, in the week of June 7, includes four of its traditionally very popular and successful conferences. Now we see “gateway events,” as Bologna is calling them, set for the same week. Two of those events are on the same days as London’s conferences.

  • The first Italian-British collision is on June 7, when London already has announced its “Introduction to Rights” conference. And yet today, here’s Bologna announcing a “Copyright Symposium,” also on June 7, a program produced in association with the International Publishers Association. Bologna’s newly announced symposium sounds important, focusing as it does on law enforcement “from practical, legal, and regulatory perspectives, applied to the book sector” and issues of copyright infringement. “Strengthening regulatory frameworks and investing in specialized authorities and infrastructure” is of major importance to this industry.
  • The second London-Bologna stare-down that week is on June 9, the same day on which London’s “What Works” education conference is scheduled. Bologna has announced an executive round table on the topic of “State of the Nations,” featuring CEOs on  the now regularly revisited topic of challenges and opportunities in the pandemic era.

What may help here is on-demand availability, which organizers for Bologna’s side say will be offered on their two events (on the 7th and the 9th of June). But, of course, with those dates assigned to them (presumably as start dates for their availability) some would-be participants of either may assume that the dates are in conflict–and skip something they’d like to have seen.

Part of the problem is that the dates used by both the London and Bologna fairs have expanded. Bologna’s previously announced dates had been June 14 to 17.  London’s dates were to be June 29 to July 1. London was the first to balloon to a three-week plan, starting on June 7. Bologna now has programming starting a week earlier than it had announced, on June 7, spokespeople saying that they hope the on-demand factor makes it possible to avoid conflicts.

Here’s one session we never see at any of our major shows and, clearly, it’s needed: “Cooperating and Coordinating for Publishing Event Organizers: An Introduction to a Shared Calendar.” With Google and other platforms making a central scheduling calendar simple for show organizers to share, there’s no excuse for them not to work together to be sure that their dates don’t conflict.

News people see more of this than the event organizers and publicity people themselves do, because all the dates come to us.  Here, for example, is a thicket of concurrent and overlapping events in play at the moment:

  • French Week, May 17 to 28
  • Wasafiri, May 17 to 23
  • PEN World Voices, May 18 to 22
  • Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, May 19 to 29
  • Hay Festival, May 19 to June 2
  • Bookwire’s ‘All About Audio,’ May 20
  • Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, May 23 to 29
  • US Book Show, May 25 to 27
  • Singapore’s Asian Festival of Children’s Content, May  27 to 30 and June 3 to 5
  • Berlin’s Literaturtest Summer Academy, May 31 to June 2

And just as needy of scheduling cooperation are the publishing and book awards shows, which compete head-to-head for attention with their jury, longlist, shortlist, and winners’ annoucements, frequently clashing on the calendar and then wondering why their press coverage wasn’t what they’d have liked.

Digital events have done a great deal to keep elements of book publishing’s industry interaction alive during the constraints of the pandemic. But with vaccinations now putting physical travel and events back into our reach, if the organizers of these and other shows can’t avoid obvious schedule conflicts and respect the demands on their professional attendees’ time, they’ll see interest quietly evaporate, like the contents of a Pfizer vial left open.

At the Guest of Honor Switzerland exhibition, Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2019. Image: BCBF

More from Publishing Perspectives on Italy and its book publishing industry is here. More on Bologna Children’s Book Fair is here, more from us on children’s books is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here

More from Publishing Perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic 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.