Yesterday I had a work-related day out. I went to the Salon du Livre in Paris.

It was a flying visit to the City of Light – there and back in a day. It was a bit of a palaver but doable. First off I drove for slightly over an hour north-west to Chateauroux where I got a train north-east to Paris (Gare Austerlitz). The train journey was two hours. Then I took the Metro (three different lines) to get to the exhibiton halls at Porte de Versailles, a voyage of about three quarters of an hour. And then all in reverse in the evening, plus a 40 unexplained minute delay for the train. I spent four and a half hours at the Salon and I was on my knees when I left I can tell you! So it was an exhausting day but very interesting.

salon scene2

I’ve been to the London International Book Fair a couple of times in the past but the Salon isn’t quite the same. The LIBF is very much trade based in that it’s about publishers doing deals with other publishers and and agents. There are some stalls set up to sell books but most are showcases for a press’s products. In contrast the Salon is really a giant bookshop. It’s definitely mainly about making money. It was also full of schoolkids, from tots upwards, being shepherded around by surprsingly un-hassled looking teachers. So it was on the chaotic side but very enjoyable.

salon scene1

It was inspiring to be in a publishing environment and see so many thousands of printed books. And the good news is that French books are at last becoming more appealing to look at. There’s been a tendency for covers to be minimalist and mainly cream with a touch of one other colour. Definitely boring. However, yesterday I saw some fabulously colourful and modern ones. In keeping with the current trend for black based covers (largley promoted by the 50 Shades books) there were plenty of these too.

There was a huge Manga section and an even bigger one devoted to BDs, which was appropriate given just how popular these are in France. The BD author/artists were signing books at top speed and there was a large area specially sectioned off for people to queue up in rows while they waited their turn. There were other authors doing signings too but they didn’t have anything like as many fans lining up. I’m sure some of them were probably quite well known but I’m not as in touch with the current writing scene in France as I really should be.

There were a lot of discussions or lectures going on, like this.

salon book talk

The TV and radio were there and even the police. There was a crime scene investigation sort of scenario going on. The guy in the white suit just wouldn’t stand up which is why we have him in an unflattering pose in this photo! I didn’t stop long as I was more intent on getting round all the book stalls.

salon police

There were some exhibitions too, including one about the sixty-year history of the livre de poche (paperback) and another on BD star Titeuf.

salon livre poche exhib

And also for reasons I couldn’t fathom this piano cum cocktail mixer!

salon piano

Ebooks and ereaders (liseuses) were well represented too, which was very encouraging for a country which isn’t embracing ebooks as warmly as the UK and the US for example. Here’s what one ereader dealer thought we should do with printed books!

salon book lamp

So it was a fascinating day out and I bought the kids a book each, which I’ll be telling you about in later blogs as they are rather special.