Frankfurt Book Fair 2021 revisited – Results in numbers

“Freedom of speech is not negotiable”

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Frankfurt Book Fair
Frankfurt Book Fair

FrankfurtAt the close of the 73rd Frankfurt Book Fair, its organisers released a statement summarizing the results of the first-again five-day physical event and its digital components. According to the statement, 73,500 attendees from 105 countries made their way to the fairgrounds: 36,000 trade visitors and 37,500 private visitors. A total of 2,013 companies from 80 countries were present in the exhibition halls, at the Literary Agents and Scouts Centre, at the ‘Workstation’ facilities introduced this year, or as digital exhibitors online. Some 130,000 participants logged into the fair’s digital trade programs between October 11 and 24. Most of the fair’s livestream programming was also accessible on Facebook and YouTube, and its content will be available throughout November at buchmesse.de and FBF’s YouTube channel.

“After 18 months, the Frankfurt Book Fair represented a new start and, considering the travel restrictions in place around the world, it far exceeded our expectations. It just shows how resilient and creative our industry is. Many exhibitors and trade visitors expressed satisfaction at the quality of their interactions. Thanks to our digital programme for professionals, we were able to build a bridge to participants who were unable to travel this year,” FBF director Juergen Boos commented.

And Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, chairwoman of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, added, “In turbulent times, important social topics were also on the agenda. It thus also became evident that there are social issues which we have to – and will continue to – debate intensively, such as combatting racism and how to respond to extreme political positions in society and at book fairs.”

“Freedom of speech is not negotiable”

FBF’s concluding statement also reiterated the controversy sparked by Afrogerman author Jasmina Kuhnke, “An author’s call to boycott the book fair due to the presence of a ‘New Right’ publishing house divided the public and the online community, raising questions such as – Where should an organizer like the Frankfurt Book Fair draw the line in terms of which publishers are admitted? Where does freedom of speech end and censorship begin?”

Quoting FBF director Juergen Boos, the statement continues, “International book fairs thrive on a diversity of opinions and content, and on an exchange among equals. People now regularly call for censorship and the exclusion of certain content or companies – as was the case this year. Two principles have always applied at the book fair: freedom of expression must not be restricted beyond the limits set by the state, which means, in terms of admitting exhibitors, in dubio pro libertate; and security during the fair must be guaranteed at all times to the greatest extent possible, so that each and every individual can feel free and safe to visit the fair. As the organiser of the largest international book fair, we are strongly opposed to our events being instrumentalised. For us, freedom of speech is not negotiable.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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