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London Book Fair and the power of local knowledge

Almost everyone looks tired at a book fair. I know I do. It’s a crazy process, frankly. Everyone books appointments at half hour intervals, even though the halls take 10 minutes to walk both because of distance and because the aisles are so crowded. It’s really not feasible to meet every 30 minutes (especially given, as a colleague said today, that one needs to make an occasional visit to the ladies’ or gents’ facilities–not to mention finding a cup of coffee). ExCel, the conference centre, was overcrowded (45,000 attendees for the Professional Beauty conference shared the place with 25,000 literary people), and is hardly a model of British design. But neither is the DLR, the Docklands Light Railway, or what an English friend called the “toy town train.” Steps up, steps down, central platforms at one station then a completely different arrangement at the next.

And so far no one can tell me what the slogan LondON (emphasis on the ‘on,’ which often appears in red or another color) means. London’s ON not OFF? It means nothing to me. We were talking at dinner, though, about HSBC (a well-known bank here) and its wonderful cross-cultural advertising, which I’d seen at the airport and are now TV ads about the power of ‘local knowledge.’ It was hardly surprising we got onto that subject, as our group consisted of my old friend Derek Albiston, a Scotsman, a colleague of his who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in the Netherlands, Rachael McDiarmid of InBooks, our Australian sales/marketing representative (“Aussie through and through”), and me.

We’ve added a forum to and look forward to more global debate about the role of the U.S.A. in the world.

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