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A week of Armageddon

22 September 2008

After what many are calling the most extraordinary week on the stock market since the Great Crash, how is publishing faring? Can we even begin to guess what the terrifying events dominating the world's financial stage might mean for the international book trade?

The answer is that it's too soon to tell yet but the private equity buyout of Informa, which calls itself 'the leading provider of specialist information to the global academic & scientific, professional and commercial communities' has been stopped in its tracks by the credit crunch. The consortium of private equity groups led by Providence Equity have found that they just can't raise the cash.

In China there has been a rather subdued 15th Beijing Book Fair, relocated to Tianjin, as required by the authorities, to avoid the Olympics. Fair attendees covered the 75 miles in a 200 mile an hour bullet train, so it was easy to commute from Beijing. A quieter fair still meant a great deal of solid business was done.

The 21st Moscow Book Fair ironically had Ukraine as the country of honour, a decision presumably made before the current tensions were exacerbated by events in Georgia. The Fair was well-attended by the public, but was overshadowed by a slump in the Russian stock market which required the Russian Central Bank to step in to shore up the rouble.

As for the rest of the financial carnage, it's too soon to tell yet what effect the upheavals will have, but publishers without solid balance sheets and with too little liquidity may well find that they too are in trouble. Let's hope that people will still be buying books (see News Review 25 August, Are books recession-proof?) but expect cutbacks in publishers' output. And that, unfortunately, means that it could be even harder for new writers to find a publisher until the market improves.