It was announced as the one of “reunion and bibliodiversity”, but it is also the one of reparation and reflections on the future. Yesterday the 81st edition of the Madrid Book Fair started with a directorial debut: Eva Orúe, the first woman in charge, who has resorted to “elementary prudence”. He took over in January and brings two substantial changes: the goodbye to that central island that cost Manuel Gil, his predecessor, the dismissal, and the redirection of the massive queues. And a friction is already showing: an unprecedented requirement has pushed aside the smaller publishers.

Independent labels and traditional bookstores were chosen yesterday by Queen Letizia during the inauguration. While in Libros del Asteroides he commented that it was one of his favorite publishers -with Desposjos, by Rachel Cusk and Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell, among his hits-, in Galaxia Gutenberg he chatted with Theodor Kallifatides, who dedicated his Timandra to him. From the Desnivel booth she took three titles on climbing and, in Miraguano, she said goodbye to her bookseller, Pepa Arteaga, who is retiring after 44 editions. In an hour and a half of walking, Doña Letizia received up to 35 copies as a gift: Cristina Peri Rossi, Ouka Leele, Pardo Bazán…

The Post-Pandemic Fair is “the largest of the 21st century”. It recovers its usual extension, but with 378 booths and 423 exhibitors. Orúe underlines: “We cannot pass a limit”, imposed by the City Council due to the environmental impact on El Retiro. In memory, the fairs of the “open bar; they came to the Rosaleda, with a four-meter booth,” recalls Juan Casamayor, editor of Páginas de Espuma, about his first time, in 2001, then with 13 books in a showcase. Orúe reveals that there has been “a waiver of meters by publishers, distributors and some booksellers”: the publishers’ stalls will measure three meters, while large groups have been deducted a booth. “An exceptional measure.”

As were the “unfortunate islands” in the 80th edition, Pepo Paz dixit. To the editorial director of Bartleby it meant a 25% drop. The same figure, “20-30% more”, calculates Alberto Sáez, from Libros del K.O, if his location had been in the outer rows. “We assumed that it was a decision adjusted to the limited capacity,” he recalls. As Casamayor values ​​- sales fell by 13.5%, despite not being on the happy island -, in 2021 “a miracle was performed; it was that or nothing, it was the first in the face-to-face world.”

The anger exploded after Gil admitted to that the small labels were placed in the center without a draw. “Charging the same for a place in Serrano as for another in Puente de Vallecas was unfortunate,” compares Paz, about that “policy of faits accomplis, which turned out to be a disaster.” “Discriminatory treatment”, sentence Sáez.

On that Bermuda triangle will now be the pavilions and three of the four spaces for mass signatures. “We are going to try that formula to get the queues out,” says Orúe about another controversy at the September Fair. “You have to attend to a demand that overflows,” summarizes Casamayor. Why does everyone want to be? “Because it is a great invention,” he answers, and provides the reasons: “It costs a publisher 2,000 euros to go, with other expenses, 3,000 and something. It can only do well for us. Paginas de Espuma bills about 20,000 euros. A smaller publisher , 6-7 thousand, but if you have half a booth, it has cost you 2,000 everything “.

The tension this time is cooked on those who, precisely, add more plurality. “A new clause has been included that requires a minimum of six novelties published the previous year,” says Óscar Palmer, from Es Pop Ediciones. “An incomprehensible measure.” After participating in seven Fairs (2013-19), in this one it was left out, despite lighting five books and although it has a catalog to share a booth. “A few minimums that have also been rising in the last decade, since we must add a total of 199 titles” among the labels that share a booth – a decade ago, he recalls “from memory, there were about 121” -.

In the background, the core: overproduction and excess news. “There are editorials that we don’t want to enter into that wheel and it seems detrimental to me that the Fair promotes it.” Their rhythm -from 4 to 6 titles/year- allows them “to be highly selective and is sustainable” for the publisher and “for the pockets of readers and booksellers.” “You can’t be at mass and ringing: if what you’re after is a book supermarket, okay, but don’t try to sell the Fair later as a plural showcase open to proposals that otherwise wouldn’t reach the public.” She has not yet received a response from the director to a complaint email after knowing the bases for this year.

From Libros del K.O they echoed his protest, because “it is still unfair” that “bibliodiversity” be promoted, while, as Paz values, it is in the small stamps where it is treasured. However, everyone recognizes that the balance of the Fair is that of a tightrope walker. On the one hand, “the pressure from the City Council”, which “poses more and more restrictions, from transport to energy”, adds Casamayor. And on the other, the growth of publishers, bookstores… “We all want to be in the best conditions”, as happens at parties. “It’s not about making a public attack on anyone,” calms Sáez, because after the changes, “the minimum is a little bit of a truce.” And Paz concludes: “There is a vocation for transparency.” Those penalized in September have been promised greater promotion.

Orúe admits that this preserve is “a reflection that must be done” in the Commission, where she has “a voice, but no vote.” “It is a task since June 13”, after the closure. Then, they will meditate on the future. “In Frankfurt, a professional fair, they are thinking that publishers can sell to the public. Maybe we have to change [Here it is just the opposite, a popular quote]. And with Spain as a guest in Frankfurt and Guadalajara, They open up a couple of years of opportunity”. Before, the “big question”: the influx of readers and readers. “If electricity goes up, with inflation and economic black clouds… But I’m optimistic, it’s the first free fair,” says Casamayor. With anxiety and muscle, the books wait.

– Influx of public. At the Normality Fair, it is expected to exceed the two million visitors that attended in 2019.

– No leading country. Given the lack of time, the Organization has preferred to postpone the invitation of a country to 2023.

– Environmental impact. The public address system and plans are eliminated by eight informers, screens and QR codes, in order to take care of El Retiro.

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