From very modest beginnings in the Berners Hotel near Oxford Street in 1971 as the Specialist Publishers’ Exhibition for Librarians, The London Book Fair – it took the name in 1977 – has grown to be an essential part of the international book trade calendar. Today, the entire international publishing industry is represented, from the giant houses with which we are all familiar, to the smallest independent. There are the publishers of blockbuster novels and academic texts, and the producers of children’s books and graphic novels: all sectors of the industry are covered at LBF, from mainstream publishers to specialised houses.
The halls are arranged by sector, much like a giant bookshop. Thus children’s and YA are together, as are the academic and STM houses, and the technology exhibitors. Technology continues to expand. Its many and varied incarnations now bracketed under Tech, where everyone from app developers to games designers and digital workflow solutions are found. In fact, a key part of the exhibition is the increasing number of tech players who explore the myriad ways in which content can now be treated and delivered. So there are mobile companies, gaming start-ups and content-hungry tech companies. This is where you feel the zeitgeist. To walk its floors is to experience knowledge and story in all its forms.
Visitors include anyone who is involved with the creation, distribution, sale or treatment of content. Authors, talent scouts, editors, designers and digital gurus, all walk the floor, meeting, talking, observing and discovering. The Fair is like a giant debating chamber that brings together all the ways in which creative content intersects. While much solid business is begun or concluded at the Fair (often both), what is just as important are the discussions that take place and the exchanges of ideas.
Nothing emphasises this more than the Market Focus programme which has run since 2004. It seeks to facilitate links and boost trade between UK publishers and their foreign counterparts. The aim of Market Focus is to increase dialogue, to sell rights, to find authors that work in one territory who can then find a whole new audience in another. Its success over the years can be seen in the International Rights Centre which has a display of titles that have found success as a result of this initiative.