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.”