Book fair goes digital, well received says organisers

The digital edition of the Frankfurt Book Fair this year has been viewed positively by the industry, with some events attracting more participants than in previous years, according to the fair’s organizer.

The 72nd Frankfurt Book Fair, running officially from Wednesday to Sunday, has been relocated almost completely to the online sphere due to pandemic concerns. The digital rendition was overall “very well received” by the book and publishing industry, German news agency dpa quoted a spokeswoman of the book fair as saying on Thursday.

During the event week, about 260 hours of talks, seminars, book readings and other programs will be streamed online across multiple channels. Some 4,400 digital exhibitors from more than 100 countries and regions applied to attend this year’s book fair, including over 120 exhibitors from China’s mainland.

In an interview with daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung published on Friday, Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, agreed that the book fair will ultimately benefit from the digitalization push.

Citing the example of the all-digital Frankfurt Conference this year, an arm of the Book Fair devoted to publishing professionals, Boos said the conference is usually visited by about 200 people, but there were around 800 online participants this year.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Media, the German government has provided 2 million euros (2.35 million U.S. dollars) to support the expansion into digital format at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

Boos said he was not worried that the digital edition will make future on-site fairs less attractive. “Part of our business is creativity, and creativity is about encounters,” he said in the interview, adding that face-to-face conversations provide more room for spontaneity than those on the screen.

The digital edition will also be able to reach new audience who would become interested in Frankfurt Book Fair in the future, Boos said.

The pandemic has hit hard the global trade fair industry, with many fairs canceled during the early months of the outbreak. The Leipzig Book Fair, the second largest book fair in Germany, was canceled weeks before its scheduled opening in mid-March.

Boos said many international publishers he knew had a hard time at the beginning of the outbreak, since the book trade was affected by the pandemic lockdowns. “In the meantime, however, almost everyone has recovered,” he said. Sales remained mostly stable and younger people in particular bought books during the pandemic, he added.