Previewing the new LBF Premises

By Carmen Comment

The London Book Fair is leaving Earls Court behind for a bigger, more spacious place over at the Docklands. Will it work? The Bookseller’s Herbert Lottman went to scope out the premises, and see if the Fair’s claim that rights trading will be integral to the new location will actually prove true:

The ExCel hall is a vast, ground-floor oblong that eventually will double as an Olympic venue. As promised, the very first section of the fair–if entering through the main entrance–will be the International Rights Centre.

A door separates the IRC from the general publishing sector, which occupies a little over half of the entire building, followed by signed areas for books in the following categories: children’s, architecture and design, travel, academic, and scientific and technical. Remainders, promotional books and publishing services have their own sections. Booked space already represents a 20% increase over last year’s fair, with another 10% available for late entries.

Emma House, manager of the show for Reed Exhibitions, describes some of the features designed to cater for agents and scouts (whose collective activity is of course a major source of revenue in the book business). These IRC users have priority in renting tables (of which there will be some 570), while publishers without stands in the exhibition area who wish to work the rights market from the IRC will have to wait until December to book.

But what about accessibility to hotels, and transportation issues?

In addition to all this, there is London’s newest and least-known tourist attraction, the Docklands, as ExCel is surrounded by the wharfs of the London of yore. Regular boat services will connect the Savoy Hotel with Canary Wharf, which itself is linked by shuttle bus to ExCel.

Just outside the fairgrounds the five-star Sunborn Yacht Hotel is moored to a dock, while several decent hotels are within walking distance, including a first-class Crowne Plaza. Three miles away a luxury-class Four Seasons and a ship-shaped Marriott stand out. (Random House has all but pre-empted the latter for its personnel, and has reserved one of the attractive café-restaurants along the quay for a party.)

So the verdict seems to be as follows: promising, but definitely a wait-and-see attitude remains.