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The Riyadh International Book Fair (RIBF)in Saudi Arabia, which was scheduled to run from 2-11 April, has been “postponed” due to concerns over the Coronavirus.  A statement from the Ministry of Health says the decision has been taken “for preventative reasons related to the ‘Coronavirus COVID-19’.”

It continues: “This is in response to the recommendation issued by a committee formed by the High Order headed by His Excellency, the Minister of Health, and as a precautionary action in the interest of the safety of visitors to the Book Fair and its employees of all nationalities.”

The RIBF had a new logo this year consisting of the name of the city drawn in the form of stacked books.  The colours are the same as those used for the Ministry of Culture in order to represent the identity and content of the book fair.

The cancellation of the Riyadh Fair follows similar decisions made by The London Book Fair (LBF), Paris Livre, the Taipei Book Fair and the Leipzig Book Fair in Germany.  The Bologna Children’s Book Fair has been postponed until May and there is a question mark over BookExpo in New York, scheduled for the end of May.  Like the LBF, BookExpo is owned by Reed who issued this statement: “Many industry events outside of the United States have had to make difficult decisions about proceeding with their events. We understand the impact that has on the publishing industry and we want to be proactive and transparent about BookExpo.”

At BookExpo, its director Jennifer Martin issued this statement: “BookExpo & BookCon will proceed as planned May 27-31st, 2020. We do not anticipate any changes or delays to our event.  Our mission is to serve our customers as best we can, and we plan to provide a place for you to conduct business in these difficult times. The publishing industry is based on personal connections—and many rely on the important business relationships made during BookExpo.

“We will continue to be take necessary precautions to facilitate an environment for the entire community to unite, make meaningful new connections, and discover new titles.

“To prepare for BookExpo & BookCon, Reed Exhibitions and our partners are monitoring the COVID-19 virus situation daily. We are collaborating closely with the Javits Center and following guidelines and precautions suggested by the US Centers for Disease Control, and other federal, state and local government agencies, including the New York City Department of Health which provides live, daily updates.”

So at the time of writing BookExpo is sounding confident – but similar statements were made by the LBF, and the Coronavirus story is one that changes by the day.  For anyone in the business of staging big book shows, let alone attending them, these are anxious times.