As a global marketplace for content, the London Book Fair has seen its fair share of history—taking a look at what has happened in past events just might enlighten you.

The London Book Fair is one of the largest global marketplaces in the world concerning rights negotiations for the sale and distribution of a wide variety of consumer content. Taking a look at where it started and where it is now is a great learning experience.

A Brief History of the London Book Fair

Before getting into the specifics of the London Book Fair, ReadersMagnet thought it might be fair to give you a brief rundown of what’s been happening at the London Book Fair throughout the years since its first iteration up to now.

      • 1972 – Lionel Leventhal, a British publisher, organized The Specialist Publisher’s Exhibition for Librarians, which had only 22 exhibitors.
      • 1972 – Partnering with the businessman Clive Bingley, Lionel Leventhal expanded the scope and influence of the event to include bigger and more general publishers.
      • 1975 – The Specialist Publishers’ Exhibition for Librarians marketed itself as the Specialist Publishers’ Exhibition for Librarians 1975: The London Book Fair or the SPEX’75: The London Book Fair.
      • 1977 – The words, Specialist Publishers’ Exhibition for Librarians, were dropped from the title of the event and shortened to the pithier The London Book Fair (LBF).
      • 2006 – The traditional host for the London Book Fair, the Olympia Exhibition Centre, was foregone in favor of the ExCel Exhibition Centre for the first time.
      • 2007 – Because of unfavorable feedback about the last event’s new location, the London Book Fair was held at Earls Court Exhibition Centre.
      • 2014 – The particular of this year’s London Book Fair was the celebration of the booking form and the written word as the basis for creative content in all formats.
      • 2015 – After a few years at Earls Court Exhibition Centre, the London Book Fair finally returned to the Olympia Exhibition Centre.
      • This was also the year the LBF placed emphasized attention on the video games industry.
      • 2020 – The 50th anniversary of the London Book Fair was supposed to take place but had to be canceled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
      • 2022 – After two years of Covid-19, the London Book Fair welcomes back in-person attendance, although at a limited capacity.
      • 2023 – The London Book Fair is now back to open attendance from the public.

The London Book Fair covers a diverse range of attention within the traditional publishing industry while also touching upon various forms of audio, TV, film, and digital channels. Outside of business dealings between publishing companies, the London Book Fair also has a medley of activities for participants to partake in: introductions of new titles, lots of workshops and seminars related to the field, discussions on current issues and trends, and the announcement of prizes and awards, which include the Trailblazer Awards for young talents in the industry and the LBF International Excellence Awards jointly administered with the Publisher’s Association, a trade organization serving print publishing in the United Kingdom.

Aside from a general appreciation and promotion of book content, the London Book Fair also has its Spotlight Programme (previously the Market Focus Programme), which places particular emphasis on taking a look at certain countries or regions of importance or interest each year. It has the stated objective of highlighting opportunities for publishing trade links and conducting businesses in the publishing industry within the year’s given region.

Recent countries and regions that have been chosen by the London Book Fair Spotlight Programme include China, the Baltics, Mexico, the Arab world, and India.

For over four decades, taking a quick look, the London Book Fair has grown considerably in both size and reputation. It is now considered only second to the Frankfurt Book Fair as THE event for the publishers, booksellers, agents, and trend-spotters of Europe.

In contrast to its humble beginnings of hosting only 22 publishers, the London Book Fair now regularly sees the attendance of 25,000 publishers, booksellers, librarians, and other industry insiders from over a hundred countries. Subsidiary and translation rights are a major economy in the London Book Fair, with almost two-thousand international exhibitors participating in the LBF yearly. The International Rights Centre of the LBF is an important focus, where rights to business concerning international titles are negotiated and dealt with.