Strong Indian presence at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair

FBF – less but better?

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Scenes at the FBF. Photo IPP
Scenes at the FBF. Photo IPP

It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive. – James Baldwin, 1964

Despite the organizers’ diversification efforts of the past ten years or so, the Frankfurt Book Fair’s overall exhibitor and visitor numbers appear to be on a slow but steady decline. Attendance at LitAg, the Literary Agents and Scouts Centre, has remained rather stable, though. Its 500 tables were again fully booked, with over 50% of the 700 agents coming from the English-speaking world, including the US, UK, Canada, India and Australia.

Scenes at the FBF. Photo IPP
Scenes at the FBF. Photo IPP

On the exhibition floor, participation from Asia-Pacific has remained relatively stable as well, with close to 10% of the stands, 520, taken by companies from the region, including 190 from China and Hong Kong, 82 from India, 45 from Japan, 40 from South Korea, 35 from Australia and New Zealand, 30 from Taiwan, 24 each from Singapore and Malaysia, 20 from the Philippines, and a total of 30 from Thailand, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mongolia. Thus, Asia-Pacific represented the second-largest non-German cluster after the United States and Canada, who occupied 580 stands. This time, the Indian scene was composed of 50 publishers and distributors, 1 literary agency, 11 printing houses and 20 software and premedia service providers. Surprisingly, half of the printers and one-third of the service companies were new faces in Frankfurt, some of them small companies debuting in the book industry. In addition, Esha Chatterjee, chief executive officer of Kolkata-based Bee Books, attended with a stand under FBF’s Fellowship Programme.

The Book Fair’s Business Club, established four years ago, has been extended with new features, such as the appointment of Business Club Ambassadors. One of these, Vinutha Mallya, told us, “Having attended the Frankfurt Book Fair since 2009, I have personally benefitted and learnt much from the fair – both as a publishing professional and as an industry journalist. The international network I’ve been able to build is because of attending the fair and because I am also a Frankfurt Fellow. In these years, through my work as a publishing industry journalist and my involvement in some of the activities of the German Book Office in New Delhi, I have been able to convey the reasons why Frankfurt Book Fair is important for publishers and professionals in the industry. I’d like to continue these efforts through the Business Club ambassadorship, where the most important discussions on the industry are curated for those attending the Book Fair.”

Another new feature at the fair was the 600 square meters Audio Frankfurt area, highlighting audiobooks, podcasts, and audio trends in panel discussions at the Audio Stage and a half-day Audio Summit conference organized in collaboration with Amazon subsidiary Audible Incorporated, a provider of digital audio content, offering, so far, more than 465,000 audio programs from audiobook publishers, broadcasters, magazine and newspaper publishers, and business information services.

Thief of Words, sculpture at a residence for authors at Lausanne. Photo: IPP
Thief of Words, sculpture at a residence for authors at Lausanne. Photo: IPP

For the second time in a row, the African Publishers Network APNET organized a collective stand of African publishers and distributors. At its “Africa Day” event, APNET chairman Samuel Kolawole provided an update on the African book industry and its challenges in terms of distribution and co-publishing efforts. The ASEAN Forum, also in its second year, provided a platform for discussions on the book industry in ASEAN countries with a particular emphasis on rights trading, textbook publishing, women authors and reading habits. The Frankfurt Rights Meeting focused on China’s growing book market. Several areas at the book fair highlighted children’s and young adults’ media, with discussions on the links between books, social media and games. In a presentation at the fair, the jury of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award nominated the list of 237 candidates for the 2020 award, among whom were two Indian organizations, the A & A Book Trust from Gurugram and Pratham Books from Bengaluru. The laureate of the award, which every year goes to authors, illustrators, reading promoters or storytellers of children’s books, will be announced at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on 31 March 2020.

In collaboration with the Jaipur Literature Festival and its BookMark Programme, the German Book Office New Delhi organized three sessions at the Frankfurt Book Fair:

The Great Indian Book Bazaar, a conversation focused on diversity in Indian publishing, which was held at the new International Stage with Neeta Gupta, Arpita Das, Naveen Kishore, Kannan Sundaram, Oliver Moystad, Anuj Bahri, Aditi Maheshwari Goyal and Trisha De Niyogi;

– A discussion at the Frankfurt Pavilion on Women and Literature in Asia Pacific between Alice Grünfelder and authors Sara Rai, Chuah Guat Eng and Feby Indirani from India, Malaysia and Indonesia, respectively;

– A New Stories session at the Arts+ stage, The Future of Storytelling, with Martin Zimper, Frederic Martel, and Maggie Ellis.

Other events included the fashionable Create Your Revolution Talks at the Arts+ stage with a dozen cultural and social activists, the Global 50 CEO Talk with Netflix vice president Kelly Luegenbiehl discussing rights issues in the film industry, and the Frankfurt Book Fair Film Awards, which included the awarding of the B3 BEN Main Prize to film director Steve McQueen. Among the book readings, discussions and conference sessions at the fair, consequences of the spread of platforms such as Spotify and the spread of blockchain systems, Big Data and artificial intelligence in publishing were debated controversially on multiple occasions. For the International Publishers Association, FBF was this year’s location for its annual meetings.

Perhaps, more interesting than anything else at the fair was our observation that small and lesser-known publishers often produce the most successful books. The most obvious example this year was Swiss publishing company Kampa, created hardly a year ago, and whose Polish author Olga Tokarczuk won last year’s Man Booker Prize for the novel Flights as well as the Nobel Prize for Literature for her latest title, The Books of Jacob.

The next Frankfurt Book Fair will be held from 14-18 October 2020, with a focus on the Canadian publishing industry.

Indian exhibitors at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010-2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Publishers, Booksellers

41

39

38

36

40

24

50

54

59

50

Printing Houses

9

8

15

8

10

4

3

2

5

11

IT, Premedia Services

9

13

18

10

20

8

13

16

11

20

Literary Agencies

1

1

1

1

1

2

2

1

3

1

Total

60

61

71

55

71

38

68

73

78

82

Indian exhibitors at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010-2019. Copyright ippStar