Magazine article Information Today

An Observation of Changes at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Magazine article Information Today

An Observation of Changes at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Article excerpt

Rick Noble, OCLC's vice president of reference services, recently returned from Frankfurt, Germany,, where he and his colleagues interfaced with international information professionals at OCLC's exhibit in the Electronic Media Hall section of the Frankfurt Book Fair

Over the past few years, the Frankfurt Book Fair has become a great deal more than just books. Never was this more evident than at the 47th annual event held October 11-16 in Frankfurt, Germany. Not only did the number of exhibitors in the Electronic Media Hall increase by about 60 percent compared with last year (from 200 to 320), but several hundred exhibitors in many of the other halls demonstrated electronic products in conjunction with their traditional book and journal offerings. The Electronic Media Hall, first introduced three years ago with just a handful of exhibitors, now takes up two entire floors in Building 1.

A Trip to the Fair

Anyone who has attended the Book Fair will tell you that his or her overwhelming first impression was one of awe at the huge number of exhibits. It reminded me of my first summer American Library Association Conference in New Orleans in 1988. 1 was carrying a Skyline display in one hand and a 40-pound box of brochures in the other when a guy rolled up on a golf cart and asked if I'd like a lift to my booth. Astonished that he had even asked and ignorant of what was in store, I said no thanks--I'll be fine. Immediately upon entering the monstrous ALA exhibit hall, however, I regretted declining his offer.

This helps me put the Frankfurt Book Fair in perspective. It is 10 times larger! This year there were more than 8,000 exhibitors from almost 100 countries, well over a million square feet of exhibit space in nine separate buildings, and more than 250,000 attendees.

Fortunately, the organizers attempt to group exhibitors logically, sometimes by product line and often by country. This, however, must be getting increasingly difficult with so many multinational publishers producing everything from books to electronic journals to bibliographic databases to online newspapers.

It was obvious this year that some attempt needs to be made within the Electronic Media Hall to position exhibitors in a different way. OCLC's exhibit was across from a software company selling The Taxman, a PC-based product designed to assist Germans in filing their personal income tax forms. Beside us was a company selling language disks',' and diagonally across the aisle was a producer of CD-ROMs for children. Granted, this was a notch or two up from last year when we had a publisher of CD-ROM erotica across the way.

Our neighbors this year seemed to be competing with each other to see who could play the loudest music and flash the brightest lights. Meanwhile, scattered elsewhere in the building were organizations more like us, displaying products designed for audiences similar to those that we usually try to reach. In future, IAC, LEXIS/NEXIS, OCLC, ISI, and others would probably be better off if put together in a common area so that librarians and researchers don't have to run the gauntlet past spacemen and robots and loudspeakers in order to see professional information products.

Having said that, however, this year there did seem to be a substantial increase in interest for serious information products. Perhaps we were just fortunate, but judging from the traffic in OCLC'S booth, attendance by information professionals, librarians, and end users was up significantly from prior years. …

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