London Book Fair Review – Wednesday & Thursday

The final two-thirds of 2017’s London Book Fair was a brilliant mix of chats, seminars, and interviews. We caught up with old friends and colleagues, and newly met countless fascinating book business people across all sections of the industry.
Here’s a brief overview of what we got up to on Wednesday and Thursday.


The first talk we attended on Wednesday was at 1pm, after a morning of meetings and catch-ups. This talk was at one of the best LBF stages this year, The Faculty.
A panel consisting of Michael Jubb, Dr. Samantha Rayner, and Lara Speicher was hosted by Nick Canty; a lecturer in publishing at UCL. The topic was to discuss the academic book of the future, and drew on research findings about the state of academic publishing.
Each panelist had a wealth of experience, knowledge, and insight. Of particular interest were the viewpoints presented by Michael Jubb. He cited the incredibly complex web of interactions and relationships within the academic publishing “ecology”; university administrators, academics, publishers, librarians, booksellers, and other stakeholders.
He contests that those in various roles generally have a poor understanding of the other players’ jobs, dependencies, and actions. The fact that it’s an international network also breeds inconsistencies across boundaries of departments and between different teams. It’s a complex supply chain, and this makes adaptation difficult to achieve with full consistency.
He talked about the inherent obsession with printed books in academic, and their perceived impact on career progression. This is a cycle that must be broken, Jubb argues. He also perceives there to be no scalable model at the moment for academic presses to produce high quantities (at high quality) of digital materials. To conclude, Jubb encouraged a redefinition of what we mean by “publishing”. He also argued that academic presses may wish to refine their huge service offering, by cutting down on the 100+ that currently sits in their repertoire.
Lara Speicher from UCL talked about their approach to open access content, citing the huge extent of experimentation going on amongst university presses all over the world. She also made clear her opinion that the monograph should be celebrated and preserved as a valuable content format, not that it would become redundant, but that it should remain a key element of academic media.
Samantha Rayner emphasised the passion and willingness that various actors in academic publishing have for working together, learning about each other, and improving the sector. She wants more support, including financial support, to draw the various areas of academic publishing together more regularly.


Thursday morning was dominated by BIC’s Building A Better Business Seminar, which included talks by Graham Bell, Tim Devenport, Clive Herbert, David Ingham, and Karina Luke. It ran between 10am and 12.30pm, exploring various aspects of improving the operational effectiveness of book businesses.
Graham Bell of EDItEUR kicked things off with a talk about, highlighting how publishers and retailers can use data markup in more intelligent ways to improve organic search rankings on individual web pages. He discussed the most accessible and effective means of achieving this through the JSON-LD method, which allows webmasters to leave the page HTML alone and insert structured data to achieve better search results.
Next up, Clive Herbert of Nielsen hosted a talk on metadata for book discoverability and sales. The results of a recent white paper study are absolutely clear; more comprehensive metadata will contribute directly to more sales. The quality of discoverability data genuinely makes an impact. The message, in a nutshell, is to ensure compliance with standards. Descriptive data elements, keywords, and cover images all need to be included to achieve optimal sales.
Following on, Tim Devenport (also of EDItEUR) spoke in-depth about the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI), and outlined how it can be utilised for the identification of contributors and organisations, ways in which it’s assigned, and reasons why it helps publishers to improve operational processes.
Overall, this group of seminars was intricate and technical, but extremely useful for publishers from a practical perspective.
Later in the afternoon, Matt was happy to catch up with Valentina Kalk of Brookings Institution Press. He interviewed Valentina for our Publishing Focus series, and the article will be published sometime next week. Keep your eyes peeled.