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The London Book Fair, under a cloud of ash

April 19, 2010 |  4:07 pm

Volcanocloud

The annual London Book Fair is one of the largest book festivals in the world. But this year, attendance may be down a bit -- because the London Book Fair started today, and Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano hasn't stopped churning ash into the air. With London's airports still quiet, one fair organizer estimated that attendance might be down as much as 20%.

Random House canceled a private event with Tony Blair that was scheduled to take place tonight; Blair was unable to make it back from the Middle East, the Financial Times reports.

Others absent from the fair include 33 of the 46 South African authors who had been scheduled to attend. South Africa is the special "Market Focus" nation at this year's fair. Many others in publishing, from all quarters of the globe, were unable to reach England for the fair.

Those who did have tales like Bloomsbury USA editor Peter Ginna's. On his Dr. Syntaxblog, he recounts what it took to get there: He caught the last Aer Lingus flight from New York to Ireland, took the train from Dublin to Belfast, ferried from Belfast to the coast of Scotland, hitched a ride with friends across Scotland to Edinburgh, then caught a final train from Edinburgh to London.

Industry e-newsletter Publishers Lunch speculates that the upcoming Book Expo America, slated for late May, may pick up some of the lost international business. It might -- if people in publishing can ever get home.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Smoke and ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano seen from Hvolsvollur, Iceland, April 19. Credit:  Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

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