The 2010 London International Book Fair
Prior to Iceland's volcanic eruptions only days before the fair began, pre-registration indicated the 2010 fair would be the best attended of any in the history of the London event.
The cloud of ash and glass particles spreading from the eruptions imposed a blanket no-fly ban in European skies stretching from Scotland to Hungary. More than 100,000 flights were canceled, affecting some 1.2 million travelers a day.
Fair organizers estimate that attendance this year fell by 1/3 from 2009.
Not coincidentally, approximately 1/3 of pre-fair registrations came from outside the U.K.
Almost everyone's non-British appointments were cancelled before the fair began when it became apparent UK airports would remain closed and alternative ground transportation was already booked by stranded UK tourists trying to get home.
There were non-British stands at the fair. In most cases, however, non-British publishers and their national publishing organizations arranged for staffing with their respective London embassies.
As a result, what there was of this year's London Fair was pretty much a wholly British-centric event. The Bookseller (British equivalent of Publishers Weekly) described the opening day of the fair as "forlorn."
A mostly local fair still gave us the opportunity to discuss placing our editions with British wholesalers. I'm pleased to say that we came back from London with distribution contract offers for titles in the areas of Australian Aboriginal Children's/Language Instruction, Body, Mind, Spirit; Business; Children's Picture Books/Verse; Environmental/Women's Studies; Grief & Bereavement; Health/Medicine; History & Philosophy of Science; People/History; Physics/Philosophy; Prophecies & Myths; Religion; Science Fiction Art & Literature; Self-Help; Relationships/Parenting; and Woodworking/Tools.
We're delighted that we were able to help the authors and publishers of these books. Looking at them, though, they form a varied collection of interests about which we haven't yet found a way to assess accurately the current international interest in particular genres and sub-genres.
One positive note: Gazelle Book Services Ltd., a U.K.-based distributor taking on some of these books at London, reported record quarterly sales in their most recent period for which statistics are available. Gazelle is comparing sales over a 30-year period. We're hopeful that the rest of the European book industry is also coming out of the economic problems of the past several years. If so, without the intervention of another act of nature, the October Frankfurt Fair should again be a jewel in the international book industry's crown.
We try to maintain something of our sense of humor, even under difficult circumstances. It helps. We were never able to verify how long before the fair the sign below was created. Or if the humor we saw in it was or was not intentional. Functionally, it was a route marker to the professional entrance to the Rights Centre. For us, it was a wonderful symbol for this year's fair itself.