The London Book Fair, one of the publishing industry’s biggest international events of the year, was canceled on Wednesday because of concerns related to the coronavirus in Europe.
The fair, which was scheduled to take place next week, is one of several major book industry events that have been abruptly called off as governments and businesses respond to growing fears over Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. As of Wednesday, there were 85 confirmed cases in the U.K.
The Paris Book Fair, originally scheduled for later this month, was also canceled this week, after the French government issued guidelines banning gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a closed space in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. An upcoming book fair in Germany, the Leipzig Book Fair, which typically attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors, was called off this week, while in Italy, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair was postponed until May.
Earlier this week, it looked as though the London fair might still go forward, even though major publishing companies, including Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, as well as Amazon and several literary agencies, pulled out. Reed Exhibitions, which organizes the event, announced its decision to cancel on Wednesday.
“The effects, actual and projected, of coronavirus are becoming evident across all aspects of our lives here in the U.K. and across the world, with many of our participants facing travel restrictions,” Reed Exhibitions said in a statement. “We have been following U.K. government guidelines and working with the rolling advice from the public health authorities and other organizations, and so it is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event.”
The London fair typically hosts more than 25,000 authors, publishers, agents and other industry professionals, and has become a crucial international marketplace for the sale of foreign rights and other deals.
Some other industry events are moving ahead this month. The Association of Writers & Writing Programs said on Monday that it would still hold its conference in San Antonio next week, despite the mayor declaring a public health emergency and some literary groups and presenters saying they would not attend.
In a statement, the organization said it would be increasing the amount of hand sanitizer available, and also issued guidelines that “this will be a handshake-free, hug-free conference.” Even with those precautions, some writers and publishers were critical of its decision.
“The decision by A.W.P. to continue with the conference and allow attendees to make the decision about whether or not to attend reminds disabled people we don’t matter to the conference, to the attendees, to those happy to fill our panel seats,” the author Sarah Fawn Montgomery posted on Twitter, noting that she is disabled and at high risk and would not be attending the conference.