Question: Where can I go to visit Lebanon, New Zealand, United States, Brasil, France, Ireland and Finland, in that order, all in one day?
Answer: A book fair.
Well, OK, strictly speaking, I don’t actually ‘visit’ the countries, but I get as near as possible by visiting their publishers, whose books represent and carry the values of the cultures. The Bologna Book Fair is 50 years old this year. In 1963, its inaugural year, there were 44 exhibitors from 11 countries. This year, on its grand birthday, there will be around 1,500 exhibitors from about 80 countries.
And it is now, in this week before Bologna, that I anticipate those meetings with ever-growing excitement. Partly because I am going to be getting back in touch with friends with whom we do business. People whose opinions I value and whose recommendations I follow when thinking about which titles to consider for publication on the Hot Key list.
And partly because, in four days of walking around and looking at stands representing the publishing works of publishers from all over the world, one gets a sense of the complexity and diversity of our business. A sense of how incredibly important our production is. It is thanks to all these publishers from all these countries that stories are read, listened to, shared, given, borrowed from libraries and enjoyed. We are each part of the wonderful baton-handed business of creating readers.
A book fair is an opportunity to do business, find great authors for the list and find great homes around the world for our authors. It is also a truly affirming experience that reminds us that we are not in this business alone and that the trials and tribulations we each face we also share and that our success as an industry has impact on people all over the world.