From President Trump’s surprise appearance at The London Book Fair – all right, it was a lookalike (you can imagine the twitter response from the real President: ‘They think this guy looks like me? BAD MOVE’) – to SAGE Publishing founder Sara Miller McCune’s inspiring words at The London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards, it has been an exhilarating, inspiring and entertaining week for the publishing industry in the UK and beyond.
‘President Trump’ was ‘meeting’ Penguin Random House and the international publishers of James Patterson and Bill Clinton’s forthcoming thriller The President is Missing, while McCune received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Excellence Awards (IEAs) where she spoke movingly about SAGE’s non-profit Social Justice Foundation. This seeks “to translate information to a more general audience in North America” and further the publisher’s work on what McCune calls “the four justices – economic, educational, environmental and social”. She also received spontaneous applause and shouts of approval when she pointed out that “half our senior management around the world are women”.
The IEAs also saw awards for Deborah Harris from the Deborah Harris Agency in New York and Gloria Gutierrez of the Balcells Agency in Spain, who were both named Literary Agent of the Year. Asoke K Ghosh, the Chairman and MD of PHI Learning received the Simon Master Chairman’s award, with London Book Fair Director Jacks Thomas describing him as “effectively the father of Indian publishing”.
The London Book Fair’s two back to back awards evenings – the CAMEOs (Creativity Across Media: Entertainment and Originality) on the eve of the book fair, and the International Excellence Awards itself – undoubtedly provided a noisy, in a good way, start to a busy week (and if we’re talking noise as in spontaneous applause and shouts then the UAE, Brazil and the Baltic states, who were Market Focus at the fair, were probably joint equal).
With audio much to the fore everywhere, both evenings had new awards for the format. At the CAMEOS, Best Audio Adaptation went to Audible UK for Murder on the Orient Express, while at the IEAs Penguin Random House Audio US was named Audiobook Publisher of the Year, with the award sponsored by BookExpo America.
The IEAs also saw a new award for libraries – won by the National Library of Latvia in Riga – while the English Bookshop in Uppsala, Sweden was named Bookstore of the Year and another new award, the Bookstore Spirit of China award, went to Beijing’s Sanlian Taofen. Both the bookstore awards were sponsored by Gardners.
Audio featured in deals at The London Book Fair itself, with Bonnier announcing a new audio division and Faber bringing its audio division back in house, having partnered with Canongate for the past five years. The flurry of activity is not surprising given the figures revealed by Nielsen at The LBF’s Quantum Conference earlier in the week. Nielsen’s UK Books & Consumer survey showed that audio sales have doubled in the last five years, while in the US the number of units sold has risen from 42m in 2012 to more than 90m today.
Some of the audio boom is undoubtedly due to mobile usage and the all-pervading presence of these devices has sparked a move from China Literature, China’s biggest online publisher. The company, which is part-owned by e-commerce giant Tencent is planning an English language expansion. Its International Licensing Director Aaron Huang hopes to persuade UK and US consumers to read longer works of fiction on their smartphones, something that happens in China where some 190m readers read sample chapters on China Literature’s site for free and then go on to buy further chapters through online micropayments. Huang believes there is a big opportunity for the exploitation of Intellectual Property. “Popular online fiction offers a fast, data-supported way for production companies to develop film and TV plots, computer games and other forms of entertainment,” he said. “Audiences know the characters and story – they’re already sold on it.”
Away from London and the book fair, an important anniversary was marked by Publishers Weekly. On 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee and the magazine reprinted its editorial from 15 April, 1968. The then editor-in-chief Chandler B Grannis, who died in 2002 at the age of 90, listed cuts by Congress to various educational and social programmes, but also noted the ‘Walk for Understanding’ that took place in Newark, New Jersey. His words are worth quoting at length since they have contemporary echoes. ‘Such demonstrations, matched in many other places, may make the climate a little easier for peaceful improvement. But will these gestures be followed by meaningful legislative action? Specifically, can bookmen and other people of good will help mobilise the pressures that will restore cuts in educational and library programmes, in youth projects, in job training?…Bookmen, concerned as they are with education and the opportunities that depend upon reading and learning, have a particular role in seeing that violence shall not have a victory, and that the reasonable dreams of a great America will come true.”
Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.