As the new Coronavirus spreads, it has sown fear and uncertainty amongst the publishing industry.
With a number of important book fairs due to kick off over the next few weeks, publishers are pulling their teams out of the events due to fears over cross-infection, with a spokesperson for Simon & Schuster US citing ‘health and safety’ fears.
While the Brussels Book Fair is set to go ahead this week, a number of other major fairs have cancelled their events. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair was the first to postpone their event to May after an outbreak of Coronavirus across northern Italy, with Paris and Leipzig Book Fairs cancelling soon after.
London Book Fair, meanwhile, was set to go ahead with fair director Jacks Thomas insisting that the conference would go ahead as planned, with over 25,000 people expected to attend. However, after a number of American publishers (including HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House) pulled out, the fair was cancelled with organisers promising that next year’s fair will “return, better than ever”. The London Book Fair is one of the most important international publishing industry marketplaces, with the fair proving crucial to the sale of foreign rights and other deals.
Industry events aren’t the only aspects of the publishing industry that has been affected by the spread of Coronavirus with production and supply chains shutting down across impacted parts of China.
A number of printing plants in the most affected areas and provinces in China have been forced to temporarily shut up shop. Even as plants slowly begin to re-open, a number of publishers are dealing with production delays, resulting in publishers delaying releases of hotly anticipated fall books. Since publishers typically print months in advance, the logjam caused by mandatory quarantines across affected provinces is compounded.
As printing begins to ramp up again, however, shipping is another issue facing publishers. While shipping bans are now being lifted, Ray Ambriano of international logistics company Meadows Wye & Co. notes light shipping loads. Ambriano expects to see a surge in demand for shipping as production returns to normal.
While the current situation in the publishing world may seem bleak, industry insiders seem hopeful that production will begin to return to normal in the latter half of March, a Penguin Random House spokesperson said.
Though it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of the new Coronavirus are, the publishing industry will be forced to wait it out, even if that means delays and cancellations.