“It’s just great to be back in Bologna,” said Margie Wolfe, publisher of Second Story Press of Toronto, Canada. “It’s a little quieter than usual, but the meetings have been good.” Wolfe echoed what many publishers are saying: the pandemic, which kept people at home for long stretches, helped fuel a boom in book sales. “We were up 100% in sales for 2021,” said Wolff.

Several publishers noted that 2021 saw a similarly significant surge in sales, and many publishers had pushed 2020 books into 2021. One newly hot category is books about refugees – a subject many publishers have on their backlist resulting from the refugee crisis prompted by the war in Syria several years ago. Today, the war in Ukraine, which has sent some three million people into neighboring countries in Europe, is inspiring publishers to look for related material once again.

Ukraine has been on many people’s minds, and blue and yellow ribbons, as well as invocations to “Stop the War” and “Stand with Ukraine,” are all over the fair. The war in Ukraine, which prompted the fair to stop working with Russia, has brought issues of copyright and disinformation to the fore once again. It is an issue that shows the necessity for publishing’s very reason for being.

“Big tech has been lobbying against the publishing world, with slogans like ‘Information should be free…’, said Elsevier's Michel Kolman. "There cannot be more of a contrast between publishing and big tech. Publishing stands for quality. Big tech undermines our business and our democracies. Look at disinformation, which actually gets more clicks. I am proud that as publishers, we stand for trustworthiness and reliability.” The answer to this imbalance, said Kolman, is legislation. "In Europe, the copyright regime is supportive of what a publisher can do.” He pointed to IPA and WIPO as two organizations that have the power to lobby on behalf of publishers to push big tech to behave.

Still, the business of the fair is also offering many people a welcome distraction from the past few years of global challenges. Urtė Liepuoniūtė is a native of Lithuania who works with the Helsinki Literary Agency and was attending Bologna for the first time. “It’s nice to come here because I can stop doomscrolling for a couple of days. I’m enjoying being here very much.”