Only by grasping the true scale of participation in book fairs and festivals globally can we begin to appreciate the true size of the global book market beyond the core markets the western publishing industry deigns to notice.
China finally managed to hold a full Beijing International Book Fair this year, for the first time since the Pandemic struck, and after numerous false starts.
The 200,000 visitor tally was a far cry from the 320,000 normally expected at such an event, but a sign that the global book fair calendar is finally finding its feet again after the ravages of the plague years.
In an article over at Publishers Weekly in April, I conservatively estimated global book fair attendance would top 50 million this year, and as we approach the mid-way point of 2023 that forecast is looking sound.
Per that post, by April we’d already seen 6 million turn out for the Bangladesh Ekushey Boi Mela, 3.6 million turn out for the Cairo International Book Fair, and several India book fairs attracting crowds of 1-2 million apiece.
We’ve recently seen 215,000 turn out at Turin, 200,000 at Malaga, and there will be countless others that internet disruption and health issues mean have for now passed me by. The final numbers for Seoul are not yet in, but 300,000 visitors is standard. And I’m just catching up on the Rabat International Book Fair in Morocco, where 240,000 turned out this year, significantly down on the half million that its predecessor Casablanca used to attract.
Madrid this summer was hurt by bad weather, with attendance barely half the 3.1 million turnout we saw in 2022, but even here there was a bright note, with sales topping 11 million euros ($12 million), up from ten million euros in 2022.
Meanwhile in neighbouring Portugal, the Lisbon Book Fair numbers for 2023 do not appear to be out yet, but the expectation was 2023 would exceed 2022’s 780,000 turnout.
Worthy of note so far this summer is Qatar, where the Doha International Book Fair pulled in the equivalent of 10% of the country’s population.
Tracking the global book fairs by attendance and participation remains challenging, as so few report numbers in detail, and as an industry there is no mechanism in place to collate such data. But only by grasping the true scale of participation in book fairs and festivals globally can we begin to appreciate the true size of the global book market beyond the core markets the western publishing industry deigns to notice.
That’s something perhaps the International Publishers Association – IPA is best suited to try organise.
Together with Rüdiger Wischenbart‘s efforts to track the true scale of the global publishing industry, a fuller understanding not just of the scale of attendance and active participation, but also of revenue generated at these events, would allow publishers everywhere to make informed decisions about international strategies and the true potential of the global book market.