Frankfurter Buchmesse 2017: there’s much to explore for Indian publishers


Through active engagement, Indian publishers can expand their networks and strengthen the visibility of India’s literature and publishing industry in the international market, says Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurter Buchmesse. With Frankfurt Book Fair just round the corner, AABP interacted with Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair, October 11-15, 2017) to know the major highlights of the fair and how Indian publishers can benefit from this book extravaganza. Excerpts.

Copyright: Frankfurt Book Fair, Photographer: Peter HirthAABP: How relevant are book fairs in this digital age, and how has the Frankfurter Buchmesse maintained its appeal?

Juergen Boos: As the largest international book fair, bringing together close to 300,000 people from 150 countries in one week, the Frankfurter Buchmesse offers opportunities to network, do business and discover new connections or content. Of course, technology makes it easier to communicate and has facilitated many aspects of conducting business. But it can’t take the place of the kind of face-to-face contact – essential for doing business – that you can only get at the fair. The Book Fair offers, on the one hand, unparalleled efficiency – the opportunity to schedule meetings with players from the entire industry during a single week – and, on the other, the serendipity and discovery that comes with meeting new business partners at a networking event or hearing about a business opportunity from someone you just met.

AABP: In what way is the Frankfurter Buchmesse important to Asia in general, and to India in particular?

Juergen Boos: Traditionally, Asian publishing houses have been license-buyers at international book fairs. However, this is changing as the economy in many Asian countries continues to grow, and with it the importance of the Asian market. For instance, an increasing interest in literature around issues of cultural diversity and multifaceted identities has contributed to putting Asian writing in the international spotlight. Moreover, writing in English – such as works by authors like Anuradha Beniwal or Altaf Tyrewala – is on the rise in Asia and has been garnering a worldwide readership. Current geopolitical developments further make for a great non-fiction market in Asia, whose output has also been gaining traction with readers around the world. As a result, Asian countries are now clearly very interested in exporting cultural content and selling rights.

However, this can be quite challenging and often takes a long time. At the Frankfurter Buchmesse, we provide various platforms and opportunities to do exactly that: promote titles and sell rights worldwide. With some 170,000 international trade visitors and over 7,000 exhibitors from more than 100 countries, the fair provides an opportunity for Asian countries both to reach out to international business partners and to showcase their cultural and literary developments for an international audience. The German Book Office in New Delhi offers programmes and organises events promoting the exchange of German and Indian literature and the countries’ publishing markets. Moreover, with IPR license, the online marketplace for rights and licensing within the publishing industry, the Book Fair makes it possible to explore the international rights market all year round.

AABP: What will be major highlights of the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2017?

Juergen Boos: The Guest of Honour presentation at the Frankfurter Buchmesse is always a special highlight, giving each fair a unique twist. This year’s Guest of Honour will be France – for me, personally, this is an absolute highlight. This year, we are expecting more than 130 authors and artists from France and French-speaking regions worldwide to present their works at the fair.

2017 will also bring the second edition of our THE ARTS+ business festival. Here, content producers and content curators such as publishers, museums and tech companies will discuss new business models revolving around creative content and intellectual property, and explore the possibilities that new technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 3D printing offer in that respect.

Of course, as the world’s largest book fair, the Frankfurter Buchmesse is the place where major players in the industry meet and authors present their latest works. From the publishing industry, we will see Carolyn Reidy, CEO and president of Simon & Schuster, and Guillaume Dervieux, vice-president of Albin Michel, at the Frankfurt CEO Talk. From India, Ananth Padmanabhan, CEO of HarperCollins India, will be speaking at our THE MARKETS conference, and Arpita Das, CEO and owner of Yoda Press, will be part of the Business Club session on women in publishing. Speaking of authors at the fair, we look forward to welcoming, among others, the bestselling authors Margaret Atwood, Michel Houellebecq, Ken Follett, Paula Hawkins, Yasmina Reza and Nicholas Sparks. We’re also thrilled that Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, will present his new book Origin at an exclusive event on the Saturday of the fair. The book will be released in more than 50 languages worldwide in October.

AABP: Was there any particular reason for selecting France as Guest of Honour?

Juergen Boos: Any country can apply to be Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse. Essential prerequisites are an active national publishing industry, programmes that promote literary translations and the willingness to invest in a year-round cultural programme as part of its participation at the fair. Together with the supervisory board of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association the Frankfurter Buchmesse decides which country will be Guest of Honour. In the case of France’s participation as Guest of Honour, our aim is not only to celebrate the longstanding cultural and business relations between France and Germany, but also to celebrate a language that is spoken by about 220 million people around the world. As a result, many of the writers participating in the Book Fair this fall will be from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and North America – with all of them calling the French language their “cultural home.”

File photo 2016 Copyright: Frankfurt Book Fair, Photographer: Stefan Stark

AABP: What’s new at the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2017?

Juergen Boos: For our trade visitors and exhibitors, we are launching several new formats to enhance exchanges between publishing professionals and the expansion of their business networks. For instance, with our lunch talks “Eat, chat, connect!” in the Frankfurter Buchmesse Business Club, we want to make it easier for people to find and connect with new business partners. In addition, the networking event “A bigger splash,” aimed at international marketing directors in the publishing industry, will take place on the weekend of the fair.

As you know, technology plays a vital role in expanding international markets, finding new formats for literary content and reaching out to new audiences. That’s why the Book Fair is the platform where the latest innovations are showcased every year. This year, we’ll be diving deeper into the topic of artificial intelligence: I’m especially excited to see the robot we’re expecting in our THE ARTS+ area. Education is an important topic at the Fair and this year, on the weekend, we will be launching the World of Learning Lab in Hall 4.2 – an interactive lab where new digital forms of teaching and learning can be explored.

AABP: What major trends in the publishing industry will be touched at the Book Fair?

Juergen Boos: In the rights and licensing market, we are currently seeing major international players in the entertainment industry, such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, reaching out increasingly to publishing houses and self-publishing authors for new content. The business model of producing a film series based on literary content appears to pay off. Literary adaptations often provide both valuable content – a good story – and an already established fan community – that is, an audience willing to pay for familiar content in a new format. We will be touching on this in our programme “A Book is A Film is A Game” on Thursday, 12 October 2017.

Regarding formats for literary content, there seems to be a great potential for growth in the audiobook market, a trend we will be analysing in the Frankfurt Rights Meeting on Tuesday, 10 October. In today’s fast-paced society, audiobooks cater especially to the needs of busy professionals who prefer to listen to books rather than to read them.

As I’m sure you’re aware, by this point most English-language markets have reached a balance between e-books and printed books: we’ve seen e-book sales begin to stagnate or even decline. The upsurge in hardcover sales in one of the biggest publishing markets, the US, further underscores that the printed book has gained new meaning today. No longer just perceived as a reading device, it has also become an object to be owned and displayed, similar to a work of art. Publications such as David Hockney’s A Bigger Book, presented at the last fair, are an example of this development. As a result, I believe that illustration and book design will assume an even more important role in our industry in the future.

Concerning current political developments – with global politics and freedom of speech and of the press being discussed daily – publishers are taking their role in spreading ideas and sharing independent thoughts incredibly seriously. Hereby, they are also exploring new business models, such as publishing essays as e-books to ensure that work reaches readers quickly and can keep up with the news of the day.

AABP: in your opinion, what is the importance of intellectual property in the digital age?

Juergen Boos: Not just intellectual property, but protecting intellectual property in particular has become incredibly important. In today’s digital age, writers, artists, musicians and all other content creators must protect their work from piracy, loss of royalties and misappropriation. The conversation around the protection of intellectual property is crucial and will be addressed both at the fair in general and in particular at THE ARTS+ festival, where – as I mentioned before – new innovations and business models on these fronts will be discussed.

AABP: Talking about StoryDrive, how successful has it been and what can we expect next?

Juergen Boos: The concept of StoryDrive has really taken off, so by this point we are actually running two StoryDrive conferences: one in Beijing and one in Singapore. Our event in Beijing just celebrated its fifth anniversary with more than 20 distinguished speakers from 10 countries and over 600 media professionals in attendance, while StoryDrive Asia in Singapore, which we launched in 2016, also had more than 20 international speakers. To describe our vision for the upcoming conferences in a nutshell: in general, we are trying to open the door to the inspiring and growing markets of South East Asia – many of which remain largely undiscovered so far. The focus of the last StoryDrive conference in Singapore was on cross-media issues – a rather new concept, not only in South East Asia, but throughout Asia. We want to continue to explore this concept at this year’s conference, which will take place on 13 and 14 November. For the 2018 conference in Beijing, we’re planning to present more case studies on digital innovation and the promotion of literature and reading.

AABP: Do you have any special message for Indian publishers?

Juergen Boos: India has the reputation of producing high-quality literature that also appeals to an international audience. In Western countries, literature from India and about Indian topics such as mysticism, wellness and social dynamics, for example, has been developing a wide readership. With the upcoming International Publishers Congress scheduled for 2018 in New Delhi, India is already a talking point. That said, I believe that the industry could, through a joint effort, showcase India’s potential in publishing at international forums and fairs more prominently. Through active engagement, Indian publishers could use international platforms to expand their networks and to strengthen the visibility of India’s literature and publishing industry in the international market. Also, from the European perspective, we are very keen to learn about new developments in the dynamic Indian market, especially in the field of digital innovation. I believe we could achieve tremendous things together! In Western cultures, we often know too little about the Indian publishing market, which is why we would love to see more of India in the global publishing scene.

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