Until the UK publishing industry has the balls to get its act together and liberate itself from the tyranny of hosting companies selling floorspace, nothing will change.
Regular readers will know my thoughts on so-called international book fairs that allow the financial interests of the hosting company to take precedent over the interests of the participants and the wider publishing industry.
But my concerns, the coronavirus aside, centre on simple business economics. The hosting company is there to make a profit, not promote the industry. I’ve never had occasion to suggest anything underhand was going on, just often unethical – as evidenced most clearly with the London Book Fair and Book Expo America, which the host company insisted would go on even as the body-count mounted.
Today RELX, the operation formerly known as Reed Exhibitions, is raving abut its H1 profits, part of which will have come from this year’s London Book Fair, none of which are being ploughed back into the UK publishing industry.
The RELX news comes as, -quite unrelated, I must make clear – South Korea’s Culture Ministry, having completed an audit of the Korean International Book Fair’s finances and claiming to have found irregularities (the fair is subsidised by govt. funding), is accusing the book fair’s organiser, the Korean Publishers Association (KPA), of with holding financial details, attempting to evade responsibility and distorting facts.
Per the Korea Herald, Culture Minister Park Bogyoon asserts the KPA has not produced full accounts since 2018, and to add fuel to the fire accused the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea, the body that oversees how gorvennment subsidies are spent, “of lax supervision, raising questions about possible collusion.”
The Herald explains that the KPA is a private organisation and is not duty-bound to share information about profits made in part thanks to the annual govt subsidy which both parties have a different value for. The Korean government says it hands over 1 billion won each year (about $780,000) while the KPA says it is only 770 million won.
Read the Herald post for more details.
Here just to note the KPA claims the book fair costs 4 billion won ($3 million) each year to put on – a reminder that serious money changes hands when these events are mounted, wherever in the world they may be.
In the case of the KPA, the profits are at least staying within the industry. In many western examples, not least the London Book Fair and the now defunct Book Expo America, the profits flow to the hosting companies, private for-profit businesses with the single agenda of putting money in their own pockets.
As I argued in May with regard to the London Book Fair, it doesn’t have to be that way.
But until the UK publishing industry has the balls to get its act together and liberate itself from the tyranny of hosting companies selling floorspace, nothing will change.
#SouthKoreapublishing #SouthKoreaInternationalBookFair #LondonBookFair #RELXprofits