If the narrow aisles of the exhibit hall seemed a little more jammed than usual at last year’s London Book Fair, it’s because they were. Boosted by a weak pound and two straight years of positive industry sales, attendance at the London Book Fair has been trending up over the past few years, and organizers hope to keep the momentum going at the 2018 fair, set for April 10–12 at Olympia London.
Despite political uncertainty around the globe (related to Brexit in the U.K., the Trump administration in the U.S., and the rise of right-wing movements in Europe), the publishing industry has fared well over the past two years, and publishers at the last two London Book Fairs have been enthusiastic—and busy. The rights trade at the fair has been brisk. Technology remains a continually evolving challenge. Thorny debates over copyright and intellectual property continue. And through it all, the book business has demonstrated resilience, with print and bookstore sales resurgent.
“The industry is feeding off the chaos in the world outside, rather than being depressed by it,” said Anthony Forbes Watson, managing director at Pan Macmillan, at the close of last year’s fair.
This year, publishers will arrive in London amid continuing political chaos to feed off of, but they are still cautiously optimistic about the state of the book business. Although recent figures suggest that print sales in the U.S. and U.K. may be leveling off, the numbers remain positive. And while the global economy shows signs of stability, growth remains modest, and sluggish.
This year, the London Book Fair will once again unofficially kick off with Quantum, a Monday preconference that, in partnership with Nielsen Book, will deliver an insightful, data-driven program on a range of topics—including a focus this year on a sector of the book business showing tremendous growth: audio. The Market Focus will feature the Baltic countries, with more than 22 events scheduled over the fair’s three days.
The fair’s professional program will again feature a full slate of talks and panels on key issues, including rights and translations, copyright, the freedom to publish, open access and scholarly publishing, technology (including social media), and new opportunities for authors, including the self-publishing arena at the Author HQ. And, of course, agents and publishers will be on hand to buy and sell foreign rights in the bustling International Rights Center.