Frankfurt: German perspective

<p>In contrast to the low-key mood of hall 8, the halls occupied by German exhibitors were bustling as usual.&nbsp; Even though the fair was officially closed to the public except for the weekend, getting into halls 3 and 4 in the afternoon sometimes proved difficult with publishers staging masses of author events and television crews in attendance. German stands differed greatly from those of major US and UK publishers with books piled high and ready to browse.<br />
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Not everybody, though, was happy with the crowd that was made up largely by schoolchildren for whom a trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair is part of the curriculum.&nbsp; Dorothee Grisebach, editorial director of Bloomsbury Verlag, complained that the stand was at times shut off by the heavy traffic. Peter Fritz, one of the leading Swiss literary subagents, has been so annoyed by the congestions that he said he intended to bring up the matter with director Juergen Boos, together with the tight security surrounding the visit from Turkey&rsquo;s President Abdullah G&uuml;l that brought disruption outside the fair ground. <br />
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Calling Frankfurt 2008 &ldquo;a busy working fair&rdquo;, Doris Jahnsen, publisher of Pendo Verlag, captured the mood of the majority of German exhibitors. Even though many Americans didn&rsquo;t show up this year, Jahnsen&rsquo;s diary was full as was that of agents Peter Fritz and Sebastian Ritscher (Mohrbooks) for whom the fair began not on Wednesday but as early as Sunday. &ldquo;Business was good, German publishers are holding up well&rdquo;, said Ritscher, while conceding that &ldquo;Frankfurt these days is for contacts and meeting people, not for getting sensational deals done.&rdquo;<br />
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From the hosts point of view there were two major talking points during the fair:<br />
* The happy end for literary publisher Aufbau Verlagsgruppe who was sold for an undisclosed sum to private investor Matthias Koch after owner Bernd Lunkewitz pulled the plug on the business in June citing debts of close to &euro;50m. Berlin-based Aufbau is the most prominent and successful former East German publishers with sales of &euro;14.2m.</p>
<p>* A date has finally been set for the release of the Sony Reader: it will be sold from spring 2009 together with several thousand e-books in a joint venture between Sony, leading wholesaler Libri and Thalia, Germany&rsquo;s largest book chain. While Thalia has been singled out as &ldquo;the premium partner&rdquo;, the device will be made available to all Libri customers. </p>