London Book Fair Closes, Citing 30,000 Attendees

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Despite space constraints, London Book Fair organizers report attendance at near pre-pandemic levels and a number of new rights deals.

The independent Edinburgh-based publisher Canongate’s stand at the 2024 London Book Fair trading meetings ongoing at the stand’s tables. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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

See also:
Rights Deals Highlighted by London Book Fair’s Organizers
At London Book Fair: The PublisHer Excellence Awards Shortlists

Policy and Programming Prominent
This week’s London Book Fair numbers, announced overnight, put trade-visitor attendance figures at some 30,000 for the three-day event—on a par with pre-pandemic levels—closing Thursday (March 14) with more than 1,000 exhibitors.

The show presented the annual dramatic reduction in third-day footfall—common not only to at LBF but at other major, intense industry-facing publishing events—and yet retained the relatively buoyant tone and energy of Tuesday and Wednesday.

The fair’s organizers continued to heavily promote the author appearances and positioned LBF as a showcase for the United Kingdom’s creative industries. Caroline Cummins, the Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Publishers Association, joined Gareth Rapley, the show director, in welcoming Dame Caroline Dinenage, MP and chair of the UK government’s Culture, Media, and Sport Committee.

Dinenage reflected on the leading figure from the publishers’ newly released report on the book business, saying, “The £11 billion value (US$14.2) of the publishing industry to the British economy was apparent from today’s visit to London Book Fair.

“From children’s books to fiction to academic textbooks, the UK has the strongest literary tradition in the world, and it’s the publishing industry that maintains that tradition.

“I’m very grateful to the Publishers Association for hosting me at the book fair today,” March 14, “and for speaking to me about the challenges that the sector faces, which will greatly inform the work that the committee is doing to support the UK’s world-beating creative industries.”

From left, the Publishers Association’s Caroline Cummins, MP Caroline Dinenage, and show director Gareth Rapley look at elements of the 2024 London Book Fairs staging on its final day, March 14. Image: LBF

Space Constraints

LBF’s efforts to deal with a space allocation compromised by Olympia London’s ongoing renovation created a daunting challenge that seemed to be accentuated for some attendees this year.

Many at the industry-facing show this week talked about a perceived greater compression of space this year than last—and shared what they’d heard as an expected outlook for the renovation’s completion within two years.

“The £11 billion value (US$14.2) of the publishing industry to the British economy was apparent from today’s visit to London Book Fair.”Caroline Dinenage, MP

There have also been almost nonstop calls for general seating “instead of having to sit on the floor,” as one longtime attendee put it, and some dismay over long lines for programming events, again something frequently assigned by attendees to a renovations-reduced footprint.

That programming, even with multiple events on several stages assigned to repeated looks at some key issues, seemed to be reliably popular throughout the three-day show.

In terms of the international book business’ concerns, a parallel policy-level focus concluded the trade show week with the Main Stage roll-out of five key world-publishing organizations gathering to present a joint statement with a call for signatories’ endorsements, that event led by the International Publishers Association (IPA).

March 22 is the deadline for this year’s IPA Prix Voltaire nominations for “exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and enabling others to exercise their freedom of expression.”

The book fair’s organizers have again presented a select series of rights deals from the three days of meetings at what has been reported to Publishing Perspectives as being more than 500 tables in the International Rights Center (on ground and first floor), while on a substantial number of the larger publishers’ and collective stands, a brisk rate of meeting turnover continued into Thursday afternoon.

There’s never as strong an afterglow for the smaller companies’ stands, of course, but discussions continued at the tables of many booths Thursday afternoon in the National Hall as well as the Grand Hall.

A focus of Thursday’s curated Main Stage presentations was the midday session Creating a Culture of Reading for Pleasure with Nicola Usborne, managing director at Usborne Publishing; Helen Freeman, director of Oxford Children’s at Oxford University Press; Cassie Chadderton, CEO of the UK’s World Book Day; and Jonathan Douglas, CEO of National Literacy Trust and Kelechi Okafor.

Despite physical-space considerations and the week’s start with inclement weather (London stayed mostly dry during the day on Wednesday and Thursday), the majority of trade visitors we spoke with said they were pleased with the results of their meetings and overall experience, and supportive of the Rapley team in standing up the trade show under the challenge of the Olympia redevelopment.

If more statistics from this year’s show become available, it will help industry players evaluate the impact of this year’s arrival of the trade-show opener to this year’s round of prominent international trade fairs. The next primary event in this group is Bologna Children’s Book Fair (April 8 to 11) with its parallel brand-extension shows, Bologna Book Plus and Bologna Licensing Trade Fair/Kids.

Busy meetings at the German Pavilion, a collective stand at the 2024 London Book Fair. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

More on the United Kingdom’s publishing market is here, more on the international book publishing industry’s trade shows and book fairs is here, more on the UK’s Publishers Association is here, and more on London Book Fair is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the global media partner of the International Publishers Association.

More of our coverage of the 2024 London Book Fair:

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.