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Many book fairs, author tours, and other literary events that were planned for this year came in for a big, but nasty, surprise: the COVID-19 pandemic. These are annual events, attended by thousands of visitors, including international ones. The main hype that drives these booklovers is that they can brush shoulders with bestselling authors, booksellers, business people, publishing executives, and other celebrities. It is this personally enriching and potentially exciting experience that many missed this time around.
The London Book Fair, the Paris Book Fair, and the Leipzig Book Fair are a few of the events that did not transpire. Many book fair events had to cancel at the last minute due to unprecedented restrictions and health hazards. Letting go of months of planning and organization, at the very least, is painful. Fairs like these that saw more than 25,000 visitors the previous year anticipated more numbers in 2020 but had to be called off. With very less time to digitize book fairs, organizers had no other option but to postpone or cancel. Physical events that did take place, like the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, in empty arenas with talks and discussions live-streamed to online audiences, took a hit due to travel bans. Many authors and business people who were the highlights of the event and had to travel to attend could not, and organizers had to find the next best person for the task.
The Frankfurter Buchmesse Fair—the largest trade fair for books in terms of the number of publishing companies and also visitors attending—took to online platforms after taking time to reorganize and make necessary arrangements to digitize. Virtual events conducted by the DESIblitz Literature Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, to name a few, found a good reach with people who wouldn’t have the chance to attend it otherwise and opened up opportunities to other audiences. People with disabilities could also be a part of the events without much effort. Actual book fairs along with accessible online versions can be expected to continue in the future as well.
However, the pandemic did take a toll on budding authors who were expecting to make deals and agreements in these events. They did not get much exposure in online events or stores. Other authors and booksellers were disappointed, as they lost out on some of their potential earnings. Publishers, authors, and other professionals majorly depend on these book fairs for customer acquisitions, trendspotting, and business development. Book fairs have become an indispensable meeting place for the sales of rights and licenses. These deals usually occur in person; a virtual approach is not favored. COVID-19 has thus affected the economic potential of the publishing industry.
The book-loving community expects a more intense personal experience with chance encounters, celebrations, and a little “chaos,” as fair director Juergen Boos states. A shift to completely virtual book fairs is not happening, as there are too many cons. The Aldus Up program is taking steps to revolutionize the trade fair system to make it sustainable, a much-needed change. An integrated approach of on-site and online events might become the new normal in the post-pandemic world. We, at Amnet, a multinational company with two decades of experience, can help your manuscripts reach the hands of booklovers with the help of our skilled professionals. Please contact us for any publishing needs; we’d be happy to help.Sources:
1.“The Human Factor: What’s Missing from a Virtual Fair Chance,” Frankfurter Buchmesse, accessed November 7, 2020, https://www.buchmesse.de/en/news/human-factor.
2.“‘Aldus Up’ at Frankfurt: Preparing for the Relaunch of Trade Fairs,” Publishing Perspectives, accessed November 7, 2020, https://publishingperspectives.com/2020/10/aldus-up-preparing-for-the-relaunch-of-trade-fairs-post-pandemic-covid19/.
3.“Empty Arenas, Plexiglass Protection for Authors: How Book Fairs Are Held in Post-Covid World,” Economic Times, Panache, accessed November 7, 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/empty-arenas-plexiglass-protection-for-authors-how-book-fairs-are-held-in-post-covid-world/articleshow/78699238.cms.