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The news that the London Book Fair is to be virtual this year has been met with disappointment but also understanding and acceptance by UK publishers.

Juliet Mabey, publisher at Oneworld, said: “The cancellation of a physical book fair in London in June is not surprising, and a good decision given the government’s recent warning about a likely rise in cases now lockdown has relaxed. We will be focusing our publisher and agent meetings on Frankfurt in October, still hopeful it will be an in-person fair, and will roll over our 2020 stand fee to 2022.”

Polly Powell, CEO of the Quarto Group, said she was “disappointed” but her team would continue making digital presentations to customers. She said: “Given that the majority of the adult UK population will have been vaccinated by the end of June, it is a shame there isn’t at least a small-scale UK focused trade event. The LBF is the industry’s water cooler moment and, with each passing trade fair that doesn’t happen, publishing becomes blander.”

Organisers say that the Online Book Fair will bookend the month of June, with conferences taking place the week of the 7 June, and a further series of flagship digital events running at the end of June. ‘The focus will be to shine a spotlight on key areas of the Fair, creating the opportunity for a larger global audience than ever before to come together in a flexible way to do business, network, learn, and share ideas. More information on the digital event will be released in coming weeks, including options for exhibitors and visitors, as well as details around the content programme, which will address themes relevant to publishers, booksellers, authors, the rights community and more.’

Andy Ventris, Director at The London Book Fair said: “It is with sadness that we postpone the in-person London Book Fair for 2021. Over the last few months, we have explored every scenario for this year’s Fair with our exhibitors, stakeholders and Advisory Board. Given the complex challenges and constraints of the global pandemic, we wanted to give as much notice as possible to exhibitors and attendees while making the best possible decision for the publishing industry. With the continued uncertainty around international travel and vaccination rollouts, it has become apparent that an in-person Fair for 2021 would not be able to offer the full value to participants that we want to deliver.

“We are deeply committed to delivering a digital event in June that offers real value and flexibility, and to broaden the reach of the Fair to the widest possible international audience. The Online Book Fair will provide the industry with a dynamic digital programme packed with content and opportunities to make new connections. “We want to do whatever we can to support the international publishing trade as we transition to a post-pandemic environment and The Online Book Fair will allow us to do that this year, but we look forward to celebrating the resilience and creativity of our industry with you all in-person at the 2022 Fair in London.”