Last Friday, Simon & Schuster became the first of the Big Five U.S. companies to officially pull out of this year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The fair originally planned to run from March 30 to April 2 and has been rescheduled to May 4 to 7. Bologna typically hosts 1,400 exhibitors and around 30,000 professional visitors.
"The health and safety of Simon & Schuster’s employees, as well as the well-being of our many friends and colleagues in our industry, is always our primary consideration," said S&S in a press release. "We appreciate that the Bologna Book Fair has been postponed until May, but after due consideration and out of an abundance of caution, Simon & Schuster has decided that its employees (U.S. and U.K.) will not attend the fair this year. Those staff who were scheduled to attend Bologna are currently exploring alternate means to have meetings with their contacts in the international children’s publishing community.”
Following the news, Elena Pasoli, exhibition manager of the Bologna Fair, told PW that the fair had received some other cancellations, but they "were not yet significant." She added, “The situation is evolving day by day and who can say what the future will bring. We’re working hard, talking with our exhibitors all the time.”
Pasoli said that they are not considering canceling the fair, but should they choose to do so, it would be announced before the end of March. The fair is now offering ticket refunds through March 20 to people who cannot make the rescheduled fair or wish to cancel.
On Friday, The Italian Publishers Association (AIE) issued a press release stating the book sales in the northern regions of the country had fallen as much as 50% over the previous week and some 25% throughout Italy overall. In addition, the organization's warned that there was likely to be a "serious and profound" crisis in the book industry; he requested both tax relief and clear guidance from the government as to whether the industry should go ahead with trade shows and fairs, which in addition to Bologna, includes the Turin Book Fair, scheduled for May 14-18.
Over the weekend the government of Italy ordered a lockdown for much of the northern part of the country, with a focus on the regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. Among the cities where movement is restricted is Milan, the country’s publishing hub, as well as Venice. The city of Bologna is still outside the official zone of the lockdown, though it has recorded numerous infections and several deaths; theater performances, sporting events and schools are shut down in the city.
As of Monday morning, employees at Milanese publishing houses reported that they working from home and considering delaying the publication of some titles; employees of BolognaFiere, parent company of the book fair, were still going to work at the fair's offices, though that may change on short notice.