Skip to Content

Book fair wars

8 May 2006

The next big international book trade fair for the English-speaking world is BookExpo in Washington 19-21 May. This is primarily for the American book trade and has 2000 exhibitors, 500 authors and 100 conference sessions. Washington is not regarded as an ideal location for the international publishing world, so it's not clear whether this year's BookExpo will attract as many visitors as last year's.

A more significant challenge to the increasing prominence of the London Book Fair in the first half of the year has come with the surprise announcement this week that the Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two. is setting up a direct competitor to the London Book Fair in its new home in ExCel in London's Docklands. This will be called the Book Fair Earl's Court and is planned to run from 7-9 April 2007. There's no doubt this is war, as Reed Exhibitions, which owns the London Book Fair, has forced the move to Docklands and then struggled to overcome the poor location and other irritations associated with the new venue.

The Frankfurt Book Fair, which is the largest book fair in the world and is owned by the German Booksellers' Association, has a new CEO, Juergen Boos, and, it would seem, a new brief - to take the war into the enemy camp. Some of the big publishers have been won over already. Tim Hely-Hutchinson, CEO of Hachette Livre, said:

'We are delighted that a central London venue has been found for London to continue hosting an attractive international book fair in the Spring each year. Hachette Livre UK will be exhibiting at The Book Fair Earl's Court, London in 2007and we do not intend to exhibit in the Docklands. The Earl's Court plan will be infinitely more convenient for everyone associated with our business, especially ourvalued visitors from overseas'

There's even a hint that the Bologna Children's Book FairThe Bologna Children's Book Fair or La fiera del libro per ragazzi is the leading professional fair for children's books in the world. will be accommodated in such a way that the dates will make it possible to take in both fairs in one trip to Europe, although the children's publishers who have to do both will no doubt find this a nightmare.

Book fairs are big business now, like other trade fairs, and the moral of this story seems to be that you cannot simply force a change of location which publishers do not like, just because it will make more money for you as the fair organisers. Publishers who come to London want to feel they are in the city, not out in the middle of nowhere, and it looks as if they are voting with their feet.