Mid-October in the publishing calendar can only mean one thing: the Frankfurt Book Fair. The world’s biggest and busiest trade fair for books, which took place last week, attracts thousands of industry experts looking to launch books, talk trends, strike deals and network like crazy. Here, we lift the lid on a 500-year-old event that’s looking resolutely to the future.
For five days every year, the German city of Frankfurt – best known as Europe’s largest financial hub – comes alive with thousands of media types from across the world. Here, in several large halls, publishers, agents, authors, booksellers and many other industry experts get together to celebrate and sell books, in all their many forms.
In a spectacular show that puts the London Book Fair firmly in the shade, the FBF involves a staggering 7,300 exhibitors, 280,000 attendees and 9,000 journalists, who gather for a book-marketing opportunity of epic proportions.
The fair’s rather mind-boggling agenda includes some 3,400 talks, readings, panel discussions, seminars and TV and radio programmes, among other micro-events. And that’s not to mention the – literally, countless – individual meetings that take place between attendees from a total of 110 different countries. In short, it’s a colourful, cutting-edge event of almost unimaginable scope.
Join the club
This year’s FBF saw the opening of a new Business Club, which is thought to have attracted 3,000 people with its conferences, consultations and networking services for entrepreneurs and publishing specialists of every kind.
As Richard Charkin, CEO of Bloomsbury UK, said of the enterprise: “It is important that we never forget how our common interests are greater than our differences. The pressure on all sectors of the publishing industry has never been greater; yet at the same time, there have never been so many opportunities.”
More than ever, globalisation and digitisation were dominant themes at the fair. Some of the greatest minds in technology – from established brands, ambitious start-ups, and everything in between – discussed a series of pressing issues, including the rise of Big Data and evolving mobile technologies.
This year, the FBF announced its first ever Innovation Partner – an honour that was awarded to Samsung. The tech giant’s role at the event was overwhelmingly clear, with its many roving representatives and prominently placed devices – namely, to showcase the digital-reading capabilities of its flagship Galaxy devices.
As the FBF director, Juergen Boos, said: “Book publishers are expanding the scope of their opportunities to the maximum. They are experimenting with content and technologies, and that spirit of invention pervades the Book Fair.”
Young people, reading and education
Unsurprisingly, given the current media obsession with all things Scandi, the guest of honour this year was Finland, which had a presence in nearly every exhibition hall. The country’s focus was on youth literature and reading.
In fact, young people were in the spotlight on several more occasions at the fair: a series of round-table discussions, talks and meetings focused on education and were attended by CEOs from leading publishing houses and learning establishments. Topics ranged from cultural and education policy to developments in education to the role of technology in learning.
An exciting event for anyone in the publishing business, the FBF is a place where contacts are made, deals are struck and competition surreptitiously weighed up – in lecture halls, at meeting tables or down any number of nameless, maze-like corridors.
Time and time again at the FBF, under the glaring strip lights of one of Europe’s largest, hottest and most bustling exhibition centres, the bedrock of future business is formed, for publishers big and small.
Thanks to Picturepest for the image.