Frankfurt Book Fair ‘special edition’ dates confirmed

Hybrid fair to accommodate 20,000 visitors at a time

The Frankfurt Book Fair in earlier years Photo Ron Augustin for IPP

Frankfurt, 28 May 2020. At an online press conference today, fair director Juergen Boos confirmed this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair is to take place as planned, from 14 to 18 October 2020. So far, plans for the physical event have been maintained, albeit with several restrictions and adaptations, given the Covid-19 situation. 

“This year, it is more important than ever that the Frankfurt Book Fair takes place,” Juergen Boos pointed out. “Thanks to activities on the fairgrounds and to book events on-site and virtually, we are putting a spotlight on our authors, industry, and trends. Because of the corona pandemic, FBF 2020 will be a special edition – an on-site program combined with a forward-looking digital offer.” 

According to Boos, the event will be able to accommodate 20,000 visitors at any one time on the fairgrounds. The entire Messe Frankfurt complex will be made available to the fair, including the newly rebuilt and renovated halls, offering larger spaces and enabling larger stands and wider concourses for distancing. The programming is possible thanks to a close collaboration between the Frankfurt Book Fair, Messe Frankfurt, the City of Frankfurt, the State of Hesse, and the German publishers and booksellers association Boersenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. 

The Frankfurt space program

It is currently planned to use six floors of hall space (Halls 3.0, 3.1, 4.0, 4.1, 6.0, and 6.1). The smallest stand will be 8 square meters in size. Exhibitors who have booked 4 square meters will be given an additional 4 square meters free of charge. All other stand sizes will also be expanded on a sliding scale free of charge. Each stand will be given 1.5 meters of the walkway in front of the stand as additional communication space. 

The width of the walkways in the halls is between 6 and 8 meters. In addition to renting a stand, FBF offers interested parties the possibility of renting by the day workspaces on each hall floor. LitAg, the fair’s Literary Agents and Scouts Center, will have a substantial physical presence, taking advantage of newly renovated space for ample distancing in Hall 6.1. The major stages will be replaced by digital options or more widely spaced physical venues. 

Registration and ticket sales are available online only. The trade visitor ticket shop is planned to open on 1 August 2020. To purchase tickets, visitors must complete a registration form and provide a self-assessment of their state of health. Accreditation of journalists will also take place online only.

The major German trade publishers – Random House, Bonnier, Holtzbrinck, and Bastei-Lübbe – are working with the fair to initiate new types of events. They have been closely involved in the development and communication of initiatives and will be a major part of their implementation. To inform buyers worldwide about new publications appearing in autumn 2020, Frankfurt Book Fair will also take place virtually for one week. Several features are planned, including a Bookfest Centre, from which FBF and its media partners will present new publications and authors and initiate related discussions. 

IPR License, the digital marketplace for international publishing rights and licensing, will be used as part of the fair’s online offering, to provide features to the industry such as a rights repository, a participants catalog, communications and, most importantly, a matchmaking facility bringing together rights holders and buyers. The digital offering is expected to have some participation from German television and will feature complimentary inclusion of all exhibitors and trade visitors.

“We’ll have different ways of participating on the fairgrounds,” Boos said at the virtual press conference. “We aim to create a big media presence, so we’ll have the support of the major publishers,” based in Germany. Whereas some of these leading publishers may not build stands, he said, they are committed to participating. “We don’t see any major cancellations by now, so it’s about the same as last year. But this is going to change because of the travel restrictions.”

An extraordinary edition of FBF

“After the situation, we’ve had in the last few months,” Boos continued, “we’re seeing a lot of publishers and booksellers in crisis. Especially after the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and London Book Fair didn’t take place, along with many other book fairs, there’s an urgent need to actually do business again, talk to each other and build up some creative attitude, as well. But it’s clear that we also need Frankfurt to interest the general audience in books again. And this is worldwide. So those are two aspects, and then there’s also the political dimension. [We] had political discussions on the fairgrounds last year, that were very focused on topics that don’t seem to be important anymore because now the world is different. And we have to face these challenges and discuss them. This is what books do anyway. And we have to give these books a stage, also knowing that it’s going to be a very special edition of Frankfurt.”

Exhibitors from across Europe are expected to participate in the event and, depending on future travel restrictions, from further abroad as well. Boos said that exhibitors and trade visitors who find that they need to cancel because of changes in the public health conditions or travel restrictions would be refunded “100% of what people have spent on their stands.”

As to this year’s Guest of Honour, the Canadian book industry, Frankfurt Book Fair, is still in discussion with the Department of Canadian Heritage, on a concept adapted to the current situation. 

FBF 2020 will be open for trade visitors from 14 to 18 October 2020 and for the general public on the 17 and 18 October weekend. Details on program planning and this year’s campaigns will be made available on the fair’s website by the end of June.

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