I recently attended the London Book Fair in March. While not nearly as glitzy as Comdex or gleefully loopy as Comic-Con, the London Book Fair provides valuable lessons about how the world is inextricably interconnected and how this tenuous connection can be fractured in the blink of an eye.
After attending dozens of book fairs throughout the years, I’ve come to a very clear conclusion:
By the time I attended my first book fair in Frankfurt in 1996 and certainly for several decades preceding this, the “tradition” of the 30-minute or even 15-minute meeting was locked comfortably in place.
Over the course of several days, I would have dozens of conversations with my publishing contacts from China, Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, Iran, France, Russia, Turkey, India, Australia, the UK, and more.
As a metaphor, the London Book Fair functions the way you would like to think the world would work on a regular basis.
Individuals—and let me be specific about this, individuals who love ideas—are engaged in the business of sharing books and selling rights internationally.
So a book written in Farsi can make its way to the American public. An American book about filmmaking can be translated into Mandarin and then enjoyed by a Chinese student.
I am in the publishing industry, so I understand that might seem self-serving but truthfully, a good book, be it fiction or nonfiction, has a way of spreading ideas and different perspectives around the world.
Numerous studies have proven that people who read books lead healthier and happier lives than those who don’t. Other studies show that people who read fiction have an enhanced ability to empathize with others.
Indeed, a good book is just an elegant transmission of ideas.
Every meeting at the Book Fair begins and ends with a proper handshake. A handshake establishes rapport and trust with your associates.
It’s easier and more meaningful to establish a business relationship with someone once you have looked that person in the eye and shaken his or her hand, even if it’s only once a year.
Now, in this digital age where people often don’t talk or see one another at all, the value of a proper handshake cannot be overstated. We need to snap ourselves out of our addictive relationships with digital communication and engage with one another in person.
It’s astonishing the breadth and scope of what you can discuss in 30 minutes when you concentrate on listening. Typically, some personal tidbits are exchanged and then, toward the end of the conversation, there are brief news flashes about world politics.
From my rapid conversations with my associates from around the world, I can tell you that 1) Most Brits were gobsmacked by Brexit; 2) Koreans are happy that they impeached their president but are concerned about their remaining choices; 3) Turks want to welcome the world back to Istanbul and showcase the real beauty of their country; and 4) Italians want to continue to eat like Italians but they secretly envy the economy of other countries.
People appreciate the fact that you know where they are from and what challenges are happening in their home country. Always thinking about the needs and concerns of other people shows simple respect.
As world leaders are becoming more competitive and, in some cases, more combative, I understand that these three simple ideas outlined here cannot and will not solve every problem.
But the alternative, which promotes distrust, fear, and xenophobia, points to a disastrous outcome from which the world may not recover.
Vice President, Michael Wiese Productions
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