Last 26 the raffle of the booths that were installed in Retiro Park in Madrid to host the 80 th edition of the Book Fair. Due to the covid and the sanitary measures imposed by the pandemic, the area of the enclosure had been limited to just over a third of its original extension (from 1. 400 square meters to 500) and the capacity to 3. 900 persons. A new space for booths was designed in the center, interspersed with bars and pavilions, thus creating two corridors with stalls on both sides.
All the booths on this new central island were small in size they were ten feet square, so none of them would accommodate great actors. On the sides, however, the booths were four meters square and, to make the most of the space, a few of three meters were put in. “The raffle was done as always by the different sections and groups,” explains the director of the fair, Manuel Gil, over the phone, trying to respond to the controversy arising from the location of the smaller labels in this new space. “We try to accommodate everyone,” he adds.
The new central aisles have proven to be frankly problematic for sales, as seen during and after the fair, held on 10 to the 26 of September. Five days after the booths were opened, Pepo Paz Saz, from the Bartleby label, already made public his complaint that this new space was “making invisible the publishers, authors and public entities crowded in their central exile from the unfortunate islands “.
With the closure already thrown this week the complaints have been raising the tone, to a large extent when it became public that this central discrimination that the smaller stamps have suffered was by design. “I wanted to avoid arriving at 27 of September and the official message that everything was wonderful” , explains Paz Saz. “It has been a deliberate action for the greats to continue enjoying the best places. Why didn’t they place Penguin Random House in the center? ” He talks to the publishers of Libros del KO and Lengua de Rapo, who have also had their booth on the central island and are thinking of writing about it. “The organization was complicated and you had to make an extra effort because this was a rare edition, but you pay and there is a draw. And then you find out that you have not been treated the same as the rest. Why were there no four-meter huts on the central islands? Behind architecture there is always an ideology. The design is by no means neutral, although it could not be foreseen that sales there would be so bad, it was known that it was a more fragile space and it was decided to place ourselves there. They knew it was an experiment, not that it would be catastrophic. The organizers have not made the design, although they have approved it ”, he complains. The editor of Errata points out that its sales have fallen by 50% compared to the last edition of the fair in 2019 and regrets the lack of communication, transparency and options.
The fateful innovation of the booths in the The new central corridors, the controlled capacity and the reduction of the enclosure, however, did not alter other traditions. For example, Manuel Gil explains that the bookstores were repositioned especially in the corners of the central corridors, something that is normally done so that the queues for the signatures surround the back of the booths and do not interfere with the public of the walk , but this time with the lateral accesses closed, it did not, in principle, make sense – after the traffic jam of the first weekend with the queues of the firms, it was decided to open these accesses. The tradition of accommodating the booths of official institutions at the entrance of the fair was also maintained and it was not contemplated to place them in the center. The pavilions were not taken out of the controlled capacity zone, nor were the bars, but Gil points out that many commercial brands were left out. “We renounced that income so that no one would be excluded.”
“It could have been done differently”
Verónica García, from the Machado Libros distributor and member of the fair’s organizing committee, clarifies that the lesson has been clear. “In the past bull it could have been done differently. The draw is always sectioned, it is never pure, but there have been design flaws. What were the bars doing inside and the toilets doing outside? There have been things that could be improved ”, he admits. For Imanol Bértolo, from the Papeles Minimimos label, which shared a booth with the Aragonese publishing house Xordica on that central island, the problem was the discontinuity, the cuts in the promenade with bars and pavilions. “It is good that the fair has been opened, but that they take measures for future editions. In this area, and in all of them, the one with more weight is more favored. ”
For his part, Paulo Cosín, coordinator of the small publishing houses of the Madrid Editors Association and member of the fair committee, stresses that everything can not be limited to the factor of location. The booth of its Morata publishing house, measuring three square meters, was one of those that was placed on the sides in the draw. “With the control of the capacity it is as if the tide had gone out and the obstacles were seen, which are many. Now we would do it differently, because there is a difference in how things look now and how they looked in February. The initial objective was for the fair to come out and for all of us to go and that has been fulfilled ”
Gil insists that“ we did not have the crystal ball ”and points out that the plans were sent and no one protested in the three months that passed from the draw to the opening. “Nothing has been done with ill will and in May we will return to the usual design.”