London Book Fair has been cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, hours after major publishers said they would not attend.
The event, which was scheduled to take place from 10th-12th March at Kensington Olympia, has been the subject of intense speculation in recent days and gripped by a wave of cancellations by publishers and agencies.
A statement from organisers Reed Exhibitions said: “Reed Exhibitions has today announced that The London Book Fair 2020, scheduled to take place at Olympia, London, from 10 to 12 March will be cancelled following the escalation of COVID-19 Coronavirus in Europe.
“The effects, actual and projected, of Coronavirus are becoming evident across all aspects of our lives here in the UK and across the world, with many of our participants facing travel restrictions. We have been following UK government guidelines and working with the rolling advice from the public health authorities and other organisations, and so it is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event.
“We recognise that business has to continue. With this in mind, we will of course support and collaborate with exhibitors and visitors to keep our world moving during this difficult period. We thank all those from the UK and a multitude of other countries who have prepared over the last year to deliver what promised to be a wonderful book fair showcasing, as ever, the exciting best of the global book industry. The London Book Fair will return, better than ever, in 2021.”
HarperCollins UK and Simon & Schuster had joined PRH, Hachette and Pan Mac in pulling out of the London Book Fair over the coronavirus outbreak.
The announcement was made this morning (4th March) following a wave of cancellations yesterday by publishers and agencies including Curtis Brown.
A spokesperson for HarperCollins confirmed this morning its UK and international teams would not attend the event.
The spokesperson said: “We can confirm that, with the health and safety of our employees and others in mind and given the number of cancellations at the London Book Fair, HarperCollins will not have a presence at the fair this year and its UK teams will not be attending.”
The announcement comes after PRH also pulled the plug yesterday. A spokesperson said: “The London Book Fair is an important moment in the global publishing calendar but given the fast-moving situation around the coronavirus, Penguin Random House has come to the difficult decision to withdraw from the fair in the interest of the health and wellbeing of our employees, authors, and partners.”
Earlier in the day, Hachette Livre became the first of the Big Five to pull out, later followed by Pan Macmillan. The Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, Darley Anderson Literary Agency and Jo Unwin Literary Agency have now also pulled out of the event alongside a number of indies.
However other publishers had said they still planned to be at LBF. Quarto c.e.o. Polly Powell told The Bookseller: “Generally, regarding the coronavirus, we are following government guidelines, but putting in place strategies to address the situation if it develops for the worse. As far as the London Book Fair is concerned, we are continuing with our plans until advised otherwise, though condensing our schedules to the Tuesday and Wednesday of the Fair where we can. Meanwhile, for those European and American customers who have cancelled appointments, so we are actively looking at alternative ways of communication. Quarto has staff and agents on the ground throughout the United States and Europe so is probably better placed than most to continue its business with the least disruption.
Before the cancellation, a spokesperson for Springer Nature said: “Springer Nature is planning to be at London Book Fair but with a reduced presence given international travel advice. We are keeping a close eye on developments and will adapt our plans accordingly if necessary. The health and safety of our staff, clients and the wider public will come first.”
Jacks Thomas, director of LBF, said this afternoon: "Planning for each London Book Fair starts as the door closes on the previous edition and, collaborating with our partners and participants, a great deal of thought and work goes into each event; cancelling any event is a decision that is never taken lightly and LBF was no exception. The publishing and book community is networked and in touch but face-to-face gatherings remain vital to doing business and building relationships – we therefore look forward eagerly to the 2021 edition of The London Book Fair that is our 50th birthday. Covid-19 has taken many of us into previously uncharted waters and we are grateful for the huge support and understanding the international publishing and book community has shown in this difficult and fast-moving situation."
Meanwhile, the government is planning to declare the virus a “notifiable disease” which could help businesses cover their losses through insurance policies.