There were packed aisles at the first London Book Fair at Olympia since 2005, with many fair-goers praising the venue. Others, however, were less than satisfied with signage and transportation, and said the current venue was “hard to navigate”.
Johnson & Alcock agent Ed Wilson said: “For a younger generation the move to Olympia feels new and a step forwards; for the old guard I know it feels like a step back, although preferable to ExCeL. But change is always good.”
Little, Brown deputy c.e.o. David Shelley agreed. “I feel very positive about this move and that is the sense I have generally,” he said. “Change is good for the fair, but equally it is a change that still makes the fair pretty accessible for most people—unlike some alternatives.”
However, Olympia has not been welcomed by all. Children’s publishers in particular are concerned about the signage; many are located upstairs in West Hall Upper, away from the Grand Hall.
Catherine Bell, co-m.d. of Scholastic UK said: “So far it’s been busy and it’s a nice area, but we need better signage to get people to come here.”
Liz Leask, sales and marketing manager at Priddy Books, agreed: “The signage to find the children’s area is lacking, so finding us is an issue. A lot of us would prefer to be with the adult publishers. Downstairs is very busy and it is a lot quieter up here.”
Elaine McQuade, head of children’s marketing and publicity at OUP, described the new venue as “hard to navigate”, adding: “The transport is extremely difficult.”
In the Grand Hall, others have taken a “wait and see” approach. Lonely Planet will “monitor what impact the change in location will have, not just on meetings, but on people dropping by [the stand] over the next few days”, its head of sales Neil Manders explained.
He added: “We were initially a little nervous about the move and a new location, but after a little bit of apprehension about how quiet it was when we first arrived, we’re feeling satisfied.”
A handful of companies have decided not to exhibit. Pearson said it had “reduced [its] presence at LBF” this year by not taking a stand, as has women’s fiction publisher Choc Lit, which has decided not to exhibit at LBF for this first time in its six-year history. “The move to Olympia hasn’t worked . . . we weren’t able to secure a suitable position, so we decided to move the budget to Frankfurt,” Choc Lit m.d. Lyn Vernham said.