Reports thus far from the American side suggest rights dealing activity has been moderate, but surging visitor numbers and a weaker pound have buoyed spirits at a busy 2017 London Book Fair.
Although official attendance is not yet know, LBF director Jacks Thomas confirmed on Wednesday that pre-registration numbers for this year's fair were up by double-digits over 2016, boosted by a weak pound and two straight years of positive sales, including a resurgence in print.
Bloomsbury U.K.'s Nigel Newton said the publisher was “on a roll” and Head of Zeus CEO Amanda Ridout said the fair was “buzzier," than in previous years, "and feels like there are more people here.” Will Atkinson, managing director and publisher of Atlantic Books, agreed. "I think it's a case of hands across the ocean," he said. "There are bad things happening on both sides. It's a group hug."
Meanwhile, the print vs. digital debate that has dominated previous years seems to have found balance. On one hand, the digital market is starting to really work in Europe, noted Caroline Michel, CEO of PFD, while Anthony Forbes Watson, managing director at Pan Macmillan, said declining digital sales in the U.K. and U.S. was stoking print demand, with "the mix shift toward print pushing up prices on new stuff.”
Charles Kim, associate publisher at the Museum of Modern Art, said the 2017 fair has been the busiest in years, thanks in large part to interest in MoMA's children's book line.
Meanwhile, the uncertainty that comes with the looming Brexit in the U.K., and a Trump administration in the U.S., may even be helping publishers. “The industry is feeding off the chaos in the world outside, rather than being depressed by it,” Pan Macmillan's Watson said. Duncan Heath, editorial director at Icon Books, agreed. "Books are a solid thing in a changing world,” he observed.