The London Book Fair 2015 (LBF) begins tomorrow (Tuesday 14th April) at the Olympia London and will last three days. It is one of the annual highlights for the publishing industry along with Frankfurt and Book Expo America. Although the event does not officially start until tomorrow, its pre-event Publishing for Digital Minds Conference took place today. Digital Minds, now in its seventh year at LBF acts as a sort pre-event think tank with consumer engagement, future publishing trends and content strategies as a particular focus this year. Bestselling novelist David Nicholls delivered the keynote at Digital Minds first thing this morning. He reflected on the dynamic discussion in recent years in the industry between the physical book and the e-book.
In the years since I published One Day, the debate between digital and physical has had a kind of gladiatorial flavour. On one side, the book as object, libraries and shops, traditional publishers and the lit pages. And, on the other, online retailers, digital downloads, new models of publishing and social media. Cavaliers vs. Roundheads, or perhaps more accurately, Betamax vs. VHS, with only one survivor allowed.
One of Nicholls’ more interesting comments in his keynote speech concerned the practice of ‘showrooming,’ a term the book industry uses to describe book buyers who peruse physical bookstores and then make their book purchases from an online retailer.
For all the ease and convenience of online shopping or the digital download, I still feel a town without a bookshop is missing something. For much of the early nineties I worked in bookshops myself, running the children’s section in Waterstones Notting Hill with a rod of iron and believing, like all booksellers, that books are somehow special, that the expertise and enthusiasm of booksellers is vital, that if you love bookshops you should spend money there, and that to discover a book on display in a well-staffed, lovingly-maintained shop, to hold it in your hand then to sneak off and buy the same book online is really just a genteel form of shoplifting.
The London Book Fair begins in earnest tomorrow and entry can tickets can be bought on the day. You can find a full list of the exhibitors, programmes and seminars taking place over the three days at the London Book Fair website.
We will be following LBF throughout this week here and on our social media feeds.
For now, courtesy of LBF, I’ll leave you with some of today’s speakers with these series of short video pieces.