'To get rid of digital': At London Book Fair, talking Frankfurt Book Fair

'To get rid of digital': At London Book Fair, talking Frankfurt Book Fair

Conferences: Ditching 'digital' as a special theme

We have decided to get rid of digital this year in Frankfurt because there's no need for a specialised digital conference. Digital is now an integral part of business.

Holger Volland (pictured), Frankfurt Book Fair's affable vice-president for development, had voiced what many have been waiting to hear.

While digital publishing is certainly the overriding dynamic of recent years, the goal has always been — because it had to be — assimilation of digital process and power as the new engine of publishing's presence and operation.

London Book Fair's own Publishing for Digital Minds conference on Monday retains its titular focus, of course, but even there the emphasis is on the effects of the digital construct, less on adoption — which is simply not a choice.

Citing its earlier conference efforts with Tools of Change and then the CONTEC series of events, Volland went on to say that Frankfurt now recognises a need "to focus on markets" and how to do business in and with those markets.

"And so," he said, "it's going to be seven markets each year" chosen as focal points in the new conference format, with a three-point approach to each market.

The Markets: Global Planning Summit

Titled just that, The Markets conference, on the Tuesday (13th October) before the fair's main dates, will have as its key points of interest, publishing in:

  • Germany
  • China
  • Mexico
  • Indonesia (Frankfurt's 2015 Guest of Honour)
  • Turkey
  • South Korea
  • United States

Under the organisational direction of Katharina Ewald, each of these markets will be treated in the course of the conference in three ways: by an analyst specialising in the business; by a "visionary" who is studying potential developments, and by a set of seven "players" who are operating in each market.

The players will be accessible to conference goers in small groups and one-on-one sessions, while the visionaries and analysts will speak to the audience as a whole. The Markets attendees will be able to pick and choose which markets to follow during the day.

And the seven focal markets, Ewald told me when I spoke with her earlier in the day, were surprisingly easy to choose. Her team started with input from some 50 industry professionals and once the commentary had been ranked, the 2015 group of seven was easily apparent.


Incheon EduContent Fair

Frankfurt Book Fair and Incheon -- the latter as UNESCO World Book Capital for this year -- will partner to create this event to run 12-15 November at Incheon's Songdo Convensia. More than 200 exhibitors are expected from South Korea and neighbouring countries are expected in a setting of more than 4,000 square meters. In a prepared statement, the thrust of the Incheon engagement was described for a strong focus on, yes, digital publishing and its effects.

The fair's professional focus will examine the political environment, trends, and new markets and showcase the changing experience of publishing, exploring new technologies for creating, conveying, curating, distributing, and attributing value to content.


Trade show track

It's always mildly jarring to fly to one international trade show and find yourself having meetings about another international trade show.

But this is not uncommon for many of us who frequent London Book Fair: both New York's BookExpo America (27-30 May) and Germany's Frankfurt Book Fair (14-18 October) are there and talking up what they're laying on for later in the year.

And in terms of the larger picture for Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, the trade show's director Juergen Boos (pictured above) was upbeat in his press conference Tuesday in the Olympia London conference centre.

Right now, I just got the latest numbers from yesterday. We are up on our plan, exceeding our plan right now. More square meters, more exhibitors. We see a lot more new people coming from Southeast Asia. We're seeing more new exhibitors, especially from the academic and educational field from Latin America...Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, quite impressive.
A lot of new trade visitors are coming from related fields — let's say technology, other media as well. We used to have a lot of people coming from the film industry; we're now seeing a lot of people coming from the games industry, as well.
In fact, a lot of people who are providing the solutions for traditional publishing are in crossover sectors. There are tech companies we see become publishing companies, especially in Asia. We see companies come out of moving images, animated content, now moving more into paper-based publishing.

The literary agent centre is up by four percent compared to last year, Boos said, then drew a quick laugh from the news conference room: "I don't know where all these agents come from."

Seriously, Boos said, in Frankfurt, the agents' centre is restricted to agent-exhibitors, "and it's growing." He said that he'd been comparing notes with London agent Andrew Nurnberg, confirming that international expansion is under way for his and other agencies at a surprising clip.

Business Club

As for the Business Club offering, Frankfurt's programme, Boos said, is planning to capitalise on the start it made last year with this new concentration of services.

A successful first outing in 2014, he said, leads the administration this year to expand the offering to make it both more comfortable for members — free coffee, water, and lunch during the conference event — and also more tightly focussed on the networking elements of the design.

An 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. structure, for example, will make it possible for members of the Business Club to have meetings earlier and later each day, and to schedule those meetings.

A lunch bar and a cloakroom are also being added to the Business Club setting. Food throughout the fair, Boos said, is to be upgraded.

An audible sigh of appreciation was heard throughout the room.