“We are no longer working on the model of Reed Expo: here, we offer the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower. It is…the opportunity to free oneself from the tyranny of the square metre.”
Covid-19 and its latest volley of variants may yet scupper the April 22-24 Paris Book Festival, as the Paris Book Fair is now to be known, but the French publishing industry has cause to rejoice at the changes being introduced, that too will hopefully guide other publishing event organisers globally.
Let’s start with the name. Fair? Festival? Does it really matter?
Well, yes, and muchly so. A fair (as opposed to a fun-fair) denotes a sales event, which of course is what these events are for, but as we’ve seen with Frankfurt, London, the late Book Expo and past Paris book fairs, there’s so much focus by the event showrunner on selling floor space to exhibitors that the product – the book and its associated rights – are almost relegated to widget status.
A festival, by contrast, denotes a celebration of the product in its own right, and that is the key pivot in the plans for the Paris Book Festival in 2022 and hereafter.
The 2022 event is, since September 2021, being managed by Paris Livres Events, a subsidiary of SNE (SA), the French Publishers Association (Syndicat national de l’édition) and led by Jean-Baptiste Passé.
Reed Expo France, the French counterpart to the organisers of the London Book Fair, that has run the Paris Book Fair in recent years, is nowhere to be seen. When the contract expired the opportunity to get rid of Reed Expo was grabbed with both hands. And Jean-Baptiste Passé makes no secret of his delight to see the back of Reed Expo and its “tyranny of the square metre”.
As reported by Actualitté, the new Paris Book Festival intends to cover costs but is not being run for profit. In Passé’s words:
We have no fixed profitability objective, only that of bringing back the greatest number of publishers: it is a question of seducing the players and presenting a unifying event for the profession (and that) the authors and the publishers are satisfied.
Just in case we haven’t got the message, Passé adds:
We are no longer working on the model of Reed Expo: here, we offer the Champ de Mars and the Eiffel Tower. It is…the opportunity to free oneself from the tyranny of the square metre.
The event, says Passé, is centred on publishers and there will be no commercial sale of floor space to non-publishing bodies as has happened in the past as ReedPop sought to boost its profits.
Read the full post in Actualitté for further insights into the plans for the Paris Book Festival 2022.
Amid all the positives, digital falls largely by the wayside. It would appear there is no Plan B should circumstances means a physical event cannot proceed next year.
That’s perhaps understandable as the new management tries to find its feet, but the real story here today is, as Passé puts it, the end of the tyranny of the square metre.
A book fair/festival being run by publishers for publishers comes with its own challenges (self-interest of the dominant parties, for example, that are perhaps evidenced by the absence of a serious digital element this time around) but is a big step up from being run by a commercial events organiser where publisher interest comes second to the organisers’ bottom line.