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It's Frankfurt time again

4 October 2009

The annual 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. starts on 14 October and already publishers from around the globe are gearing up for the many meetings, arranged weeks ago, which they will be packing in with publishers from all over the world.

At the moment the Fair looks as if it will shrink again this year. Less than 7,000 exhibitors have signed up, according to preliminary figures from the organisers, which could mark a decline for the second year in a row. Figures from 10 September show 6,936 exhibitors have booked stand space at the fair. Last year's event saw numbers drop to 7,373 from 7,448 in 2007. However, Bridget Shine, executive director of the UK's Independent Publishers' Guild, said it would have more than 40 exhibitors on its stand, which was more than in previous years.

Exhibitors are trying to get better value out of the Fair by sending less people and having them stay for a shorter time. American publishers are widely expected to be even thinner on the ground than last year, as the recession has bitten hard in the US. But for many publishers from all over the world, large and small, Frankfurt is an essential event in the publishing calendar. Where else will they get the chance to meet, present their lists and sell both rights and books?

There's already the usual talk about what will be 'the book' of the Fair. In spite of the fact that book rights are sold throughout the year, using email for cheap and fast communication, this does not take away from the fact that it pays to have something 'noisy' to sell at the Fair.

In the meantime the ambitious, relatively new director of the Fair, Juergen Boos, is doing everything to make sure that Frankfurt remains the premier gathering for the world's book trade. China has been made the guest of honour for this year and prior to the Fair there will be a two-day symposium addressing the subject of China; the Tools of Change conference, which has looked at digital opportunities and threats to the industry, has already taken place in New York; and this year's International Rights Directors' meeting will focus on the topic of making money out of digital.

But Boos is has also been working on making the Frankfurt Book Fair an international brand and an organisation in its own right: 'We want to establish our presence at the global level while remaining adapted to regional conditions.' There is the Cape Town Book Fair, launched three years ago with the Publishers' Association of South Africa, and also the partnership with the Abu Dhabi Book Fair, which it is hoped will open up the potentially lucrative Arab market to publishers from all over the world.

Still, the important thing is to meet, talk and get on with doing business. Jamie Camplin, MD of Thames & Hudson said: 'The great challenge of this year's Frankfurt is to get the book trade off knee-jerk, navel-gazing responses to the recession.'

Inside Publishing on the Frankfurt Book Fair

International Book Fairs 2009