A few hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are to be joined by other dignitaries from Germany and abroad and – in the presence of numerous authors, artists, actors and publishers – transform the opening ceremony of the 69th Frankfurter Buchmesse into a summit bringing together creatives from around the globe, Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurter Buchmesse, presented a dynamic portrait of both the traditional book market and related sectors, whose representatives are increasingly making their way to Frankfurt. More than ever before, the Frankfurter Buchmesse has also become a forum that reflects global events and offers authors and political activists a stage to showcase their causes and concerns.
“In times when poisonous narratives have become popular and the spreading of fear and hatred have once again become socially acceptable, we liberal, democratically minded bibliophiles must respond with attractive counterarguments,” said Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurter Buchmesse, speaking at the fair’s opening press conference today. “The Frankfurter Buchmesse brings together people who represent a range of diverse opinions. It is therefore very well suited as a venue for passionate discussions and debates.”
In his remarks on the development of international book markets, Markus Dohle, CEO of the multinational publishing group Penguin Random House, expressed optimism, noting that, since the start of the media industry’s digital transformation some 15 years ago, book markets in most countries have grown slowly but surely. According to Dohle, the fundamental challenge for the publishing industry stemming from today’s digital transformation is finding new ways of engaging with readers. “Given the way that the e-commerce market for books of all formats is developing and growing, we need a new approach to marketing books. We also have to be able to generate demand for our books – directly and at scale,” he said. Penguin Random House is the world’s largest trade book publisher with more than 250 imprints on five continents.
Heinrich Riethmüller, chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, emphasised the importance of the book industry for a free, democratic society. “This is the book industry’s hour,” he said. According to Riethmüller, in troubled times, publishers and bookshops promote dialogue, provide trustworthy information and foster the ability to form well-versed opinions – and for that it needs reliable conditions. He therefore called on the forthcoming German government: “Improve the conditions for an independent, vibrant and diverse publishing landscape. Only when publishers receive appropriate remuneration for their services and have a sufficient degree of planning reliability will they be able to invest in literature and new and innovative ways of distributing and reading books. What is at issue here is nothing less than the quality of education and the independence of publishing houses.”
Some 7,300 exhibitors from 102 countries, a slight increase from 2016, are expected at this year’s fair, the largest gathering of the international book and media industry. The Guest of Honour country this year is France.
The Frankfurter Buchmesse, however, is not just a central marketplace for doing business in licences and intellectual property. More than ever, it has become a venue for discussing cultural policy ideas initiated by relevant, international actors. For example, at the invitation of French Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen, an informal working session will be held on Wednesday, 11 October, bringing together EU culture ministers at the Frankfurter Buchmesse for the first time. German Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters will participate in the session.
Also on Wednesday, The Arts+ Innovation Summit will examine the question: “How would a European innovation network for the cultural and creative industry actually work?” After all, thanks to new technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, big data and 3D printing, digitalisation is producing innovations and new business models in every industry. THE ARTS+ Innovation Summit is designed to bring creatives, business leaders, start-up entrepreneurs, funders, intermediaries and policy makers from throughout Europe together at the same table.