Report from the Field
This huge event and offshoot meeting offered an abundance of information
Here's a quiz question: Germany's Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) is a) huge, b) amazing, c) overwhelming, d) awesome, or e) all of the above. If you chose anything but e), you need to go to the fair. Then you won't be able to help but agree that e) is the only possible answer.
This year's Frankfurt Book Fair was held October 10-15, and it was indeed "all of the above." It's truly an experience that everyone in the information industry should have at least once. It's said that the FBF is the largest trade show in the world (based on the number of exhibitors), and I wouldn't disagree. It's certainly the largest trade show I've ever attended. The site is the second-biggest exhibition center in the world. (The largest is a similar facility in Hanover, Germany, that's used for trade fairs featuring industrial equipment and similar products that need huge display areas.) Shuttle buses and moving walkways connect nine halls; each hall is itself the size of a large convention center such as those found in many U.S. cities. The FBF filled seven of these nine halls.
Such a huge exhibition can easily overwhelm its attendees, and one marvels at the organization needed to keep it running. Excellent signage, a number of directional stations maintained by knowledgeable guides and furnished with a database of exhibitors, and attention to a myriad of other details do much to help the visitor. Even so, simply walking the aisles of the various halls and remembering what you've seen is impossible. Fortunately, exhibitors' booths are grouped together in a somewhat logical fashion, either by country or subject, so that attendees can efficiently make fruitful contacts. And a comprehensive catalog of all exhibitors makes finding a specific one easy.
The FBF is concerned with all aspects of book publishing. Publishers, of course, make up the largest contingent of exhibitors, but other areas are represented as well: paper manufacturers, binderies, printers, typesetters, software producers, libraries, and distributors. One entire hall is devoted to electronic media, and I was delighted to discover several European e-book companies that I hadn't known about. "Book" is interpreted quite loosely; I was fascinated by the wonderful displays of maps, globes, and mapping software, for example. And the ancillary activities are intriguing, too. Many booths offered food and drink, and one publisher of books about wine had a wine tasting at its booth, complete with an oenophile on hand to discuss the vintages being sampled. It's understandable why this booth often generated nearly impassable aisles in its vicinity.
If you're planning to visit the FBF (next year's dates are October 9-14), the following are some helpful hints:
* Take comfortable walking shoes. I can't emphasize this strongly enough. The distances to be walked and the halls are enormous.
* Don't even think of trying to see the entire fair in 1 day. It's physically impossible, and you'll only become frustrated. Instead, limit your activities to your areas of interest.
* Do take a little time to explore a new area or an area in which you have a personal interest. You might be very pleasantly surprised.
* Plan your time carefully. Make a list of booths you wish to visit and go to them first. Check out the fair's Web site at http:// www.frankfurt-book-fair.com.
* Be prepared for high hotel rates during the FBF if you stay near the exhibition site. Hotels in Frankfurt routinely raise their prices significantly during trade fairs. Save money by staying outside the city and traveling to the fair by train (stations on the exhibition site grounds make this very convenient). Book early.
Enjoy the fair. It's an experience.
The IBLC Symposium
In cooperation with the FBF, the Frankfurt City and University Library (Stadt- and Universitatsbibliotek Frankfurt am Main) sponsors the International Booksellers' and Librarians' Centre (IBLC) and has an exhibit area in one of the halls. …