Despite global tension, ‘buzziest ever’ book fair

With visitors in excess of 10,000 by Monday midday, the 2003 London Book Fair «is the buzziest fair I’ve seen,» LBF director Alistair Burtenshaw told Kathimerini English Edition yesterday. Burtenshaw, in his third year as director, admits to having felt some misgivings, «given the global climate and economic situation,» but is delighted by the strong international presence at the fair. The American collective pavilion, for instance, which usually represents 50 American firms, has 100 this year – and that is in addition to large numbers of individual American firms that are participating independently. So far, attendance is up 6 percent on last year, and «the fair is well on track to exceeding its usual total of 22,000 visitors by closing time Tuesday,» said the director. Greece is present officially at the fair for the first time this year, and LBF staff worked together for a year with the Greek representatives to organize their pavilion. Asked about what national missions can do to help promote local markets, Burtenshaw mentions the examples of France, which has been coming to the fair for decades, and Spain, which has been here for the third year in a row, as being successful instances of national efforts paying off in market terms. The Greek pavilion will make the industry aware of what Greece has to offer, he believes, as will events organized around writers. The next step is to negotiate and sell translation and international rights, an area where Greece still lags behind, and book fairs are the place to make contacts with other professionals in the field. And that is crucial, he believes, «in an industry as people-oriented as publishing, where nothing can replace face-to-face contact. That’s why we also organize a lot of events, seminars and parties.» The LBF is essentially a trade fair, and Burtenshaw wants to keep it that way: «a business event, aimed at the trade, with a very strong international focus.» With that in mind, LBF has introduced innovations to facilitate international participation – this year the fair has an international welcome point and provides the services of translators. Burtenshaw is better placed than most people to observe current trends in the publishing industry. He cites the continuing growth of the children’s literature market as one of the most significant. «I don’t know whether this is a pre-Harry Potter rush for June,» he says, «but for the past three years that growth has been reflected in business at the fair. From the big players to the small, there’s tremendous creativity in that field.» Another field which is doing surprisingly well in the face of global realities is the travel book market. «Post September 11, things changed permanently,» says Burtenshaw, «but people still have reasons to travel and that market is growing,» to the extent that the LBF has created a special zone for travel-related products.

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