Frankfurt Book Fair restructures and plans ahead

FBF virtual feedback shows contradictory interests

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In earlier times –Asian food at the Frankfurt Book Fair
In earlier times –Asian food at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Initially planned to take several months, the Frankfurt Book Fair’s restructuring process appears to have been sped up and finalized already. After consultations between the management and the workers’ council, the fair’s corporate structures have been streamlined by discontinuing certain activities and merging departments, leading to ‘unavoidable’ staff reductions by 1 January 2021. FBF’s New York office, for instance, will be closed with immediate effect. Some of its activities are to be taken over by the Goethe Institute.

According to an earlier announcement, the restructuring process’s purpose is ‘to ensure the continued existence of the fair’ at its physical Frankfurt venue. FBF director Juergen Boos commented, “Like many other businesses, Frankfurt Book Fair has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic on an existential level. As a result, we had to implement a restructuring process that involves painful and far-reaching changes.”

Parallel to the internal restructuring, discussions have taken place in recent weeks with some 200 book industry professionals from Germany and abroad. The exchange focused on what exhibitors are concerned with, in today’s uncertain times and what the Frankfurt Book Fair can do to provide its customers with more support. Participants agreed that a physical fair should take place to the extent permitted by the pandemic. At the same time, they said, the fair should concentrate on the basics: offering a venue for the international rights and licensing business and facilitating networking within the international book and publishing industry.

On a more detailed level, the exhibitors’ responses revealed a diverse range of needs – while international exhibitors would focus on B2B venues and an improved matchmaking tool, German exhibitors say that interactions between their authors and the public and the resulting media response are of major importance. All participants said they would like flexible presentation formats. Digital tools already on offer are to be developed further in order to enhance the physical fair’s significance.

Managing director of the FBF Juergen Boos said, “The customer feedback we have received in recent weeks is very valuable to us. It shows that the Frankfurt Book Fair must serve different and, in some cases, contradictory interests. Yet responding to this diversity is what we are known for. We will be presenting our concept for FBF 2021 in a few weeks.”

The next Frankfurt Book Fair is to take place from 20-24 October 2021. Whereas exhibitors will be able to start booking their stands for the 2021 event, the organizers are also working on FBF’s digital approach, to be used either to complement the physical event or to carry the fair again, pending the progress of responses to the pandemic.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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