Reflecting on LBF ’17

The London Book Fair was a tremendously valuable experience. Certainly, I was a little overwhelmed at first by the sheer number of stands, the scale of the Olympia and the deals and important conversations between publishers that I saw taking place as I wandered the aisles. But as a learning experience, a place to hear up-to-date and in-depth knowledge directly from the publishing professionals themselves and a chance to be a part of the buzzing and beautiful city of London, I took away many points to reflect on.

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I was particularly looking to explore the uncertainty that the publishing industry faces in an ever-changing world of new technologies and shifting political climates (Brexit being the obvious concern here) and how publishers are challenging and looking to overcome this. This was of course a major topic for debate across the fair, addressed in the majority if not all of the talks I attended.

The very first seminar, ‘Brexit: Good or Bad News’, explored just this. DK’s Ian Hudson and Charlie Redmayne of Harper Collins voiced concerns over Brexit’s impact on recruitment in terms of freedom of movement, issues in copyright frameworks and implications of the weaker pound on printing for example. While many in the room also voiced concern, (upon a vote, most felt that Brexit would have a mainly negative effect on the industry), the general feeling was however positive – we’ve been dealt this scenario and now we have to work together to move forward and overcome. The Bookseller quoted Will Atkinson of Atlantic Books, commenting on the day: “A bright spot is that it might be a good time to be writing and publishing, as people seek truth and try to make sense of our difficult times” (‘Hudson slams ‘inhuman’ May’s EU dallying’, 15 March 2017).

Another intriguing seminar was ‘Reportage in a Post-Truth World’, taking place on the second day. With a panel of reporters and analysts, the discussion focused on positions of authority, fact-checking and gatekeeping knowledge. Have the fact-checking media become too elitist as President Trump tweeted, becoming irrelevant and losing out to more populist media? To what extent can you influence the readers’ emotions? What does post-truth mean for publishing? – important questions to consider in assessing publishing’s role in our shifting world.

Other highlights include various talks in the Cross-Media section – we heard from Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of The Witcher series, in adapting literature to different forms of media, and the We.Latvia project, a new collection focusing on storytelling reassessing history and memory to inform the present.

Meeting other publishers during our time in London, albeit briefly, was also extremely valuable, the Publishing Scotland whisky social an example of this, reconnecting with professionals and introducing myself to new individuals. We also attended the Borough Book Bash at the end of the final day. A more informal setting than the fair, I met further new faces and discussed opinions and routes into the industry. Twitter handles and details were exchanged and I’ll certainly be looking to keep in contact.

A thoroughly enjoyable and fruitful week to a be a publisher (and an MSc Publishing student!), I feel significantly more aware and understanding of industry trends, issues and developments and I look forward to visiting the London Book Fair again in the future.

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