Compared to Frankfurt‘s imposing skyscrapers, the entrance to the halls containing the Frankfurt Book Fair is fairly unassuming. Once our group of 32 postgraduate publishing students from Oxford Brookes University got inside, we scattered everywhere and did our very best to see and experience it all. We obviously didn’t succeed individually - the fair is spread out through 12 floors of six different halls - but I like to think that together we managed to see most of it.
The main aim of our trip was for us students to meet professionals in the publishing industry and get a better understanding of how diverse the business of books can be. Walking around the different stalls as well as listening to talks and presentations made it apparent that wherever your field of interest lies, there are new and creative things happening. We also got the chance to have short meetings with people in various positions within different publishing houses, giving us a glimpse into their roles and companies, which was especially helpful.
Within the group were people from around 15 different countries. Many of them found former colleagues and friends working at former employees stands at the fair, some even found books they had worked on previously now being sold to the rest of the world. This was an unexpected and welcome slice of home. Personally, I was very excited about the bottle of Icelandic water and pieces of chocolate that a publisher kindly got for me from the back of the stand (“Have some more, you are always supposed to take two or three to keep in your bag”).
The tagline of this year’s guest of honour was “Finland. Cool.” My initial thoughts were ambivalent; the word is overused, if meteorologically accurate. When I walked into the Finnish exhibition space however, cool is exactly what it was. The lighting was calm, the main book display was very clever, the author discussions were high-tech and the children’s space was interactive and interesting. All-in-all, a great space that felt like an oasis in the crowds of the fair.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is a place for interesting discussions and discovering new things that you never knew existed. Our group was lucky to have the time to wander around slowly, stare in awe at long-admired imprints and learn from each other. We came to this place because of our love of books, and left with fuel for that fire. At the end of the day we were all exhausted, happy, slightly overwhelmed, and even more determined to land a job in the industry that would make it possible for us to return to Frankfurt and meet all these passionate, hard-working and brilliant people again.
Thora Eiriksdottir is an MA in digital publishing student at the Oxford Brookes University on a Macmillan scholarship. She is a part-time bookseller and originally hails from Reykjavik, Iceland. This blog is part of a series of blogs witten by publishing students for The Bookseller.