London Book Fair 14-16 March

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A really busy London Book Fair week kicked off on Monday at Olympia with the Quantum Conference, delivering a packed programme of speakers, and with the spotlight this year on consumer insight and partnerships.  With Poland as the Market Focus country for 2017, the headlines for the next 3 days were dominated by a number of different issues and announcements: Brexit and Scottish independence (of course!) and the impact both might have on the industry; the launch of a number of new series at the big publishing houses, and rights deals for some fairly big household ‘names’; an 8-way auction for a debut crime novel written by a Swedish journalist; and the arrival of quite a few new media players on the look-out for books they could turn into films, TV series, or even audio books.  Some of the stands seemed to be bigger and taller than ever, and the mood on the whole – and especially at the stand drinks receptions – seemed upbeat and optimistic.  Above all, there was a sense that in the crazy world we live in right now, book publishing has an important role to play.

Two event highlights of LBF

1) On Tuesday afternoon, it was literally standing-room only at the ‘A Career in Publishing’ talk, where 3 key female publishing professionals discussed the challenges facing women in the book industry today.  Rebecca Lewis-Oakes, Managing Editor at Egmont, gave some top tips about how to get your foot in the door and advised that it IMG_0798really is a numbers game.  ‘Don’t give up’ was the motto!  Anne Perry, Science Fiction Editor at Simon & Schuster, told the audience that anyone wanting get a publishing job nowadays needs to show a real passion for books, they should read round the sort of titles they usually pick, and go to every event, signing and festival they can to gain the knowledge needed.  And finally, freelance marketing and events consultant Miriam Robinson, recalled how at the start of her career she was lucky enough to have a mentor and stressed how important it is not to be afraid to reach for something you want.  She also raised the issue, as a woman, of juggling work and having a family.  She advised that while on maternity leave you should take stock, and take advantage of how flexible the market is right now.  Career progression doesn’t have to be linear anymore and, if you are aware of the landscape, you can apply for projects on a one-off basis to suit you.

2) On Wednesday, it was off to the EdTech Theatre to hear from three of the most exciting start-ups in the EdTech sector.  Mads Holmen is the founder of Bibblio, a content IMG_0816recommendation platform for non-fiction content. Bibblio’s mission is to help publishers and learning platforms provide their users with better and more engaging content recommendations.  They seem to be doing some exciting things right now.  Colum Elliott-Kelly from Blippar, one of the world’s leading augmented reality platforms, explained how it is his company’s vision to turn the world into an interactive learning environment, layering digital content and tools onto physical space in classrooms, museums, and workplaces.  Can a device really tell the difference between and apple and an orange?  Apparently so!  Finally, James Gray, CEO of Kortext (an aggregated eBook and digital textbook platform which is transforming the EdTech industry), explained how the technology they use can tell which students are actually reading the course books on the university curriculum, and even which students are reading round the subject.  If I was a student now, I’m not sure I’d like ‘Big Brother’ reporting back on me, but with £9k fees a year at stake, apparently the current crop of undergraduates do!  Times have definitely changed since my day…

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Alex Hippisley-Cox, PR & Communications Director