Frankfurt Book Fair

By Bjørner, Susanne | Information Today, December 2012 | Go to article overview
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Frankfurt Book Fair


Bjørner, Susanne, Information Today


special report

The Greatest Content Show on Earth

Every October, the book world flocks to Frankfurt, Germany. For more than a decade, the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) has grown increasingly digital in scope. The 2012 fair, however, made it clearly evident that digital is now thoroughly integrated into exhibits, events, products, and the creation, editorial, production, and distribution processes of the book trade.

The show, held in the Messe Frankfurt that encompasses 500,000plus square meters (about 5.4 million square feet), was the gathering spot where 200,000 people (publishers, booksellers, agents, film producers, hardware and software providers, and authors) from 100 countries attended more than 3,000 learning and celebratory events. The 7,300 exhibits were spread throughout multiple buildings. You could have spent 3 days just in Hall 4.2, headquarters for STM, academic publishing, and specialist information, as well as in one of the six Hot Spot presentation areas. Also noteworthy were the English-language exhibits in Hall 8, or the other country exhibits in Halls 5 and 6, or comics and the gourmet gallery in Hall 3. And that doesn't include the space devoted to New Zealand, the honored country of 2012.

Everyone whom you would expect to exhibit at a major book and electronic content show had a stand at FBF Springer Science+Business Media, EBSCO Publishing, ProQuest, and Wolters Kluwer all had large spaces in Hall 4.2; Hall 8 was home to Amazon and Google, and Hall 6.1 was the spot for Barnes & Noble's NOOK Developer.

On the list of least-expected exhibitors was CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which demonstrated an LHC (Large Hadron Collider) time tunnel but also presented an exhibit case showing the first World Wide Web server, together with a copy of Tim Berners-Lee's March 1989 paper "Information Management: A Proposal."

Deal Making and SO Shades

The essence of FBF is deal making, which takes place everywhere, from tiny, square exhibit-floor booths to the giant, secure LitAg hall, where you need a pass to get in to a meeting that was arranged weeks in advance with one of the literary agents. All types of rights are up for sale, including content moving into other languages, content distributed to foreign global markets, and content transformed from one medium to another (books, films, multimedia, and apps). It's no longer a one-way street starting with the printed book: One of the most exciting offers this year was Borgen, a book based on the original Danish TV series about a female prime minister. (Borgen is the Danish term for "parliament.") The title has already achieved broadcast success in the U.K., the U.S., Germany, Belgium, Brazil, and South Korea.

Much discussion, and not just in deal making, was about the "50 Shades Effect." Fifty Shades of Grey has sold more than 28 million copies around the world, according to the Nielsen ratings (other estimates put the trilogy figure much higher). Its effect goes beyond the romance and erotica genres, sales of which have grown by 384% and 192%, respectively, in the U.K. alone. Self-published and electronic properties are now actively sought out, and the value of blog marketing is recognized after the tremendous global success of E.L. James' title. James' work was picked up from her own online serial to be an ebook and print-on-demand title by the Australian virtual publisher The Writers' Coffee Shop; it then went viral by blog promotion and social media.

Educational Programs

In addition to its role as the place for rights exchanges, the FBF serves as an important venue for knowledge exchange as well. Three educational frameworks are featured prominently. The SPARKS stages in Hall 4 (STM, academic publishing and specialist information) and in Hall 8 (the English-speaking world) offered presentations, interviews, and panel discussions of media trends and issues on topics from EPUB 3 to HTML5 to metadata.

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