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.”

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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