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It's falling leaves and books

For the publishing world, the Frankfurt book fair is a major marketing event.

india Updated: Oct 03, 2006 18:16 IST
Varupi Jain
Varupi Jain

The season in Germany is one of beautiful, crumpled, red-orange leaves falling in a riot of colour, but it is also one of the famous Frankfurt Book Fair. So let's sample five sizzlers about the Book Fair, a few of which perhaps come as revelations:

5. The Context: For the publishing world, the Frankfurt Book Fair is unarguably the most important marketing event of the year. But even besides this gigantic book show featuring more than 380,000 titles in the professional centres and behind the scenes of the impressive exhibits, the Fair is all about business involving books. While visitors look along the shelves to find out about new publications and the latest trends, contracts are being signed at the tables on the stands and in the rights centres, negotiations are being conducted and contacts cultivated.

Internationally, these five days in October are holy in the book year: no other book fair brings together so many international representatives of the book industry. Whether you're an author, agent, translator, illustrator, librarian, publisher or bookseller - if you're anyone who counts in the world of words, you've got to be in Frankfurt this season.

4. The History: The first Frankfurt Book Fair opened as early as 18 September 1949. The division of Germany together with increasing economic constrains set off the search for a replacement for Leipzig - the traditional book fair location of Germany. In 1948, there was a drastic slump in the book trade following the currency reform in the western zones. While the value of the Deutschmark had indeed stabilised but people spent the little money they had on food and clothing and not on books.

The book market urgently required new impulses and a trade fair appeared to be the appropriate thing. The opening of the book fair was planned for 18 September 1949 in Frankfurt's St Paul's Church, but only a few people signed up a few weeks ahead of the fair. However, chance and not planning seemed to have helped.

A Frenchman, Monsieur Martin, organised an exhibition of French books in the Römerhalle (Roman Hall), which brought in the first international participants and also made the Americans, the Swiss, the Austrians and the Italians curious to explore options. This was a decisive moment for Germany - the book fair had set the coordinates for the first intellectual and international links.

3. Facts and Figures: For the mega book event from 4 - 8 October this year, 3.5 per cent more exhibition space has been booked than in 2005, and all 13 hall levels are completely sold out. 7,066 exhibitors from 111 countries have registered so far and by the time it begins, the Fair is likely to exceed last year's record (7,223 exhibitors). The organisers expect 280,000 people to attend over the five days of the Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest book fair in the world - also organises the participation of German publishers at more than 25 international book fairs and is co-founder of the Cape Town Book Fair in South Africa. It maintains the most visited website worldwide for the publishing industry at

2. Zooming in on India: It is widely known by now that India will be the "Guest of Honour" country in Frankfurt this year. The motto "Today's India" captures rightly the aim to present the India of today and its contemporary culture to the international public. The series of events focusing on India started off already in March 2006 at the Leipzig Book Fair where 12 renowned Indian authors read from their works. More than 30 Indian authors are expected to present their works at Frankfurt.

The presentation on India will focus specifically on those authors who write in 24 main languages of India besides English. Among the authors expected to attend are Amitav Ghosh, Mahasweta Devi, Vinod Kumar Shukla, Javed Akhtar, Paul Zacharia and Dilip Chitre.

1 Fascinating forums: The happenings at the various forums of the Fair promise to be as fascinating as the books on display. You have a choice among socio-critical talks, panel discussions on socially and politically topical issues and of course, readings by international bestselling authors and celebrities from the world of film, politics and sports.

The new Forum 'Science on Saturday' will provide insights into German history as contemporary witnesses recall the "Death March to the Amber Coast" of January 1945. A discussion on feminism and an expert analysis of today's media reporting are on the agenda in the Forum 'Fiction & Non-Fiction'. Or you can watch a professional translator at work in the Translators' Centre.

In the International Centre, discussions will focus on the problems of authors living in exile and on the fate of African boat refugees. The Forum Innovation is for those interested in new media where the Frankfurt Book Fair's web-bloggers will be reading from their blogs, giving advice on blogging and experts will discuss the future of podcasts.

So buckle up, take a deep breath and off to Frankfurt!

First Published: Oct 03, 2006 18:16 IST