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The Frankfurt Book Fair goes global

20 October 2008

In the midst of all the gloom and doom, the Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two. has been pretty much business as usual. Writing on the last day of the Fair, visitor figures are so far up 8.1% on last year, although there has been a slight drop in exhibitor numbers.

The Fair's success is partly a sign of the increasingly global nature of publishing, and the fact that publishers need this huge international marketplace to buy and sell rights across the world. This year Turkey was the guest of honour and had a record 165 publisher stands, showing the impact of this special status. Nobel prize-winner Orhan Pamuk used his opening addresss to decry the 'oppression' of Turkey's writers, describing 'a century of banning and burning books, of throwing writers into prison, killing them or branding them as traitors'.

Some intriguing new initiatives were announced, many of them tending towards a more international view of the world. The publisher Bloomsbury has set up a joint venture with educational organisation the Qatar Foundation to launch a new publishing house which will publish books in both English and Arabic for readers in the Middle East. The plan is to publish across a wide range of adult, children's and academic titles. Bloomsbury's CEO Nigel Newton said: 'Our brief is to identify literary talent and develop a knowledge transfer. It will be very much working in two directions, into and out of the region.'

Interestingly, the publisher also aims to organise creative writing classes for developing writers and to help develop translation skills into and out of Arabic.

Also from the Middle East, a plan has been announced to translate thousands of books and build a new Arabic language library for 21st century readers.

The UK's Society of Young Publishers, a lively group of not-always-so-young publishers, has announced plans to set up a web portal for young publishing professionals across the globe.

Next year's Fair will have China as guest of honour and that country has already surprised observers by asking Taiwan to participate.

The increasing globalisation of the world economy is reflected in the way the book world is becoming ever more international. This is good news for writers, as it opens up new markets for them, and those fortunate enough to write in English have an added advantage in reaching a huge global audience.