London Book Fair Observations

Day number one of the London Book Fair is complete. Even though the business climate is difficult for most publishers, the show floor was busy and one could almost sense a bit of optimism amongst the exhibitors. Attendee traffic was brisk for most of the day and I didn’t notice many empty stall spaces. The aisles seem a bit wider than in years past, and that is usually an indication of fewer exhibiting publishers. All in all though, it was hardly noticeable.

Like last year, everyone is talking about digital this and digital that. This year a “Digital Zone” is set up in hall 2. The zone is actually a pad of 8 stands melded together to make an island of small kiosk’s and a theater for product and service demonstrations. I sat in on a couple of the demos, and for the most part they were informative. One must remember though that this is a publishing show, and as such, those who demonstrate need to know their audience. The term “.epub” was thrown around with abandon, and it could have easily been misunderstood by the majority. The XML standard is being heavily pushed by most everyone, so much so that the term is freely used both as a noun and as a verb.

Of the things publishers are struggling with, monetization is tops. While everyone agrees that digital is no longer a futuristic dream, it is a reality of the day, the debate over pricing and channel ownership has just begun. There is still so much for a publisher to learn. Most acknowledged that the key to addressing digital today is the length at which a publishing house is willing to take risks. Experimentation is key, yet in these difficult economic times, it isn’t easy for anyone to play with capital.

The complex discussions are being tempered by the extraordinarily nice spring weather here in the UK. If things get too stuffy inside, one only needs to walk a few hundred feet to bask in the warm 70 degree sunshine.

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