The London Book Fair at Earls Court

This post was written by Chris Hendry, head of advanced media for the UK Legal business at Thomson Reuters

The London Book Fair, now in its 43rd year, welcomes more than 25,000 visitors and exhibitors from 114 countries to Earls Court each year. It bills itself as a unique opportunity to explore, understand and capitalize on the innovations shaping the publishing world of the future.

As the head of advanced media for the UK Legal business at Thomson Reuters, I was keen to hear what publishers had to offer this year and to check out some of the latest technology – but my first visit was to the Thomson Reuters booth.

Each year Thomson Reuters publishes around 150 legal book titles for the UK, Scotland and Irish markets. At this year’s Fair we were able to show-off the latest editions of our more well known Sweet & Maxwell titles, such as Archbold and the White Book, as well as some newer titles such as The Art Collectors Handbook.

The Fair also provides visitors with a chance to catch-up on the latest e-book technology. This year, I was struck by the variety of e-book solutions now being offered. The explosion of e-books a few years ago has resulted in a number of e-readers, but I noticed there were few solutions dedicated to the professional user.

Law books, for example, require a much more complex mark-up to accommodate tables and many levels of structure. Additionally, they are very rarely a linear read; they are reference aids, there to answer a question and they tend to be much larger than most books, often in excess of 3,000 pages.

The Thomson Reuters booth at the London Book Fair

These factors often mean that e-readers built for novels are not up to the task. Lawyers need a professional grade e-reader that is capable of living up to the specific demands they place on reference books. Thomson Reuters had its ProView e-reader at the Fair. It is designed from the ground up for professional content, and I’m pleased to say the reception from the legal community has been overwhelmingly positive.

Whilst the majority of publishers had print books on display, the shift towards digital was a common theme running through much of the discussion about the future of publishing. The common response to the rise of digital seems to be one of “give customers the content they want, in the format they want,” and simultaneously producing print and digital is likely to continue to be a priority for many publishers.

The importance of innovation in the future of publishing was also emphasised by a number of commentators. New products, and enhancing the reading experience, were the more obvious forms of innovation, but there were also interesting insights into the need to innovate in the way publishers run their business operations; particularly given the rapidly changing environment we operate in.

At Thomson Reuters, we continue to develop our print and digital portfolios. More titles will be available in e-book format for ProView this year, and we’re going further by integrating book content into our online legal research solution, Westlaw UK.

The London Book Fair was a great opportunity to see and hear from so many publishers and authors in one place. It was also a pleasure to speak with the visitors that dropped by the Thomson Reuters booth.

P.S. It is often difficult to know what to do with books once they’ve been on display at an exhibition, so I was very pleased to hear that all of the legal books we had at the Fair this year will be sold to raise money for charity. The proceeds will go to The Book Trade Charity, which has been supporting publishers and booksellers in need for 175 years.