London Book Fair confirmed to run digital only

London Book Fair confirmed to run digital only

The London Book Fair has scrapped plans for a physical event and will go digital only with a series of “dynamic” online events at the beginning and end of June.

This year's fair had previously been rescheduled to run from 29th June to 1st July because of the pandemic. Organisers Reed had planned a physical event but, following a postponed decision on the final format last month, have now decided it will take place solely online. The trade had cast doubt on the need for a physical fair, with companies including HarperCollins saying they would not attend if it went ahead.

Organisers said the digital fair will now bookend the month, with conferences taking place in the week commencing 7th June and a further series of “flagship digital events” running at the end of the month, around the 29th June to 1st July. The events aim to shine a spotlight on key areas of the fair, “creating the opportunity for a larger global audience than ever before to come together in a flexible way to do business, network, learn, and share ideas”. More information will be released in coming weeks, including options for exhibitors and visitors, alongside details on the content programme.

No refunds will be offered to contracted exhibitors, organisers confirmed to The Bookseller. Instead, exhibitors can choose to put a portion of this year’s investment into participating in the online fair, rolling over the remainder into 2022, when it can be then "topped up as appropriate". Alternatively, they can roll over their entire investment into the physical 2022 event with a price freeze applied.

After last year's event was cancelled late in the day, some exhibitors were offered 60% of their fees back or, alternatively, a transfer of 100% of their fees to a booking for the same package at this year's event. This year's exhibitors were a mix of new clients and companies that rolled over their money and may now have to do so again.

The normal in-person event will return in 2022 for its usual spring date, running from 5th to 7th April.

Andy Ventris, LBF's new director, said: “It is with sadness that we postpone the in-person London Book Fair for 2021. Over the last few months, we have explored every scenario for this year’s fair with our exhibitors, stakeholders and advisory board. Given the complex challenges and constraints of the global pandemic, we wanted to give as much notice as possible to exhibitors and attendees while making the best possible decision for the publishing industry. With the continued uncertainty around international travel and vaccination rollouts, it has become apparent that an in-person fair for 2021 would not be able to offer the full value to participants that we want to deliver.

“We are deeply committed to delivering a digital event in June that offers real value and flexibility, and to broaden the reach of the fair to the widest possible international audience. The online book fair will provide the industry with a dynamic digital programme packed with content and opportunities to make new connections.”

LBF's sales team will be in touch directly with exhibitors to discuss their requirements. Visitors will also be able to access the online fair free of charge.

Ventris said: “We want to do whatever we can to support the international publishing trade as we transition to a post-pandemic environment and the online book fair will allow us to do that this year, but we look forward to celebrating the resilience and creativity of our industry with you all in person at the 2022 fair in London.”

Submissions to the Insights seminar programme have been kept open given the announcement. Fair attendees can register interest online.

Last week the Bologna Children's Book Fair, also scheduled for June, was also confirmed as a digital-only event.