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2019.09.23 The Disappearance of International Book Fairs in Japan
An international book fair is a type of convention where domestic and foreign publishers gather to display their books and negotiate publishing and distribution rights. In some countries, it is common for consumers to participate in book fairs as an opportunity to learn about rare books from abroad. In 2019 alone, 71 international book fairs are scheduled in 59 different countries. The last fair to be held in Japan, however, was back in 2016.

The fair held in Japan up until three years ago was called the Tokyo International Book Fair (TIBF). It started as the Nihon no honten (Japan Book Exhibit) held by the Japan Book Publishers Association (JBPA), which expanded in 1994 when the English company Reed Exhibitions Japan partnered up with JBPA to create the Tokyo International Book Fair. The publishing industry in Japan since then, however, has been in decline, which led to the end of TIBF three years ago. This development was not a surprise to the general readers who had been attending the fair for years and had noticed the gradually shrinking scale of the so-called international fair.

One of the biggest factors that led to the discontinuation of TIBF was the drastic ways in which the publishing industry had changed in Japan. The advent of the internet and email, which allowed for remote negotiations between publishing companies abroad, had thrown into question the necessity of international book fairs, while the profusion of book fairs in China and other neighboring countries had led to fewer companies participating in the Tokyo event. At the same time, publishers can’t ignore recent trends in the industry. From 2015, Mainichi Publishing and Diamond, Inc. began inviting foreign publishing companies to the “Tokyo Copyright Information Session.” The 2018 session had participants from over 50 IT companies.

In fact, JBPA hasn’t completely given up on the Tokyo International Book Fair; they are merely working on developing a new framework for the fair that does not limit participation to strictly publishing companies. The industry is now supported by a number of ancillary industries, which has made it necessary to consider a totally new way of looking at publishing and dive watches