Frankfurt Book Fair

5 Interesting Things about Frankfurt Book Fair

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world’s biggest trade show for books. It is also one of the most important publishing events for many publishers; a must-attend fair to showcase their products and network with other industry players.

I had my share of experience in attending the event back in 2015 and there are several interesting things about Frankfurt Book Fair you should know. It was an exhilarating experience meeting like-minded people, discussing business ideas and possibilities, networking with other professionals, and getting to know different cultures.

In a separate post, I would probably write the experience (though it is years late now!).

But most importantly is what we do with the new network and acquaintances we met at the Frankfurt Book Fair. That would make a difference for many years to come.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is held annually at the Frankfurt am Main, Germany (it was held virtually and in hybrid mode in 2021). The event is organized by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association subsidiary called the Frankfurter Buchmesse GmbH.

Thousands of exhibitors participate in the annual event, with the number of participants over 200 thousand people. And this is where the largest publishers in the world gather under one roof.

Here are 5 interesting things you should know about the Frankfurt Book Fair:

Photo: Accucoms.com

1. Long history

Known as Frankfurter Buchmesse in German, the Frankfurt Book Fair has a long history spanning over 500 years. In the 12th century, a trade fair had begun there selling, amongst others, handwritten documents and books.

Why handwritten books? Because at this time, printing books were yet to exist.

Then, a German inventor named Johannes Gutenberg became the pioneer in document printing by introducing the world’s first movable-type printing press.

The trade fair slowly progressed toward the printing and publishing business, influenced by Gutenberg’s innovation.

Sources indicate that the Frankfurt Book Fair officially began by the year 1462.

2. Frankfurt Book Fair is considered one of the most important book fairs in the world

Frankfurt Book Fair is one of the most important book fairs in the world. 

More than 7,000 exhibitors comprising publishers, media, technology providers, and institutions showcase their products and services to potential business partners.

The book fair is mostly a business-to-business (B2B) affair. Here, companies seek to collaborate on co-publishing deals, offer publishing technology solutions, exchange rights (translation, distribution), etc.

Major book deals also happen during the Frankfurt Book Fair involving the world’s largest publishers and prominent authors.

The book fair is divided into three main areas: exhibitors, visitors and the business center. The exhibition halls are where publishers show off their titles and products to prospects who come from all corners of the world.

3. A five-day event

The Frankfurt Book Fair takes place over five days every year, routinely held in mid-October. It opens on Wednesday morning (or Tuesday evening for exhibitors). That afternoon, publishers set up their displays.

During these five days, the first three days are commonly reserved for publishing professionals (businesses). The event will then be open to the public on the final two days.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is about marketing and promoting books to retailers, publishers and readers. The event includes expositions of publishing houses, international organizations, national associations, an extensive program of events (panels, conferences), author readings and signings (often not open to the public), etc.

Photo: Deutschland.de

4. Guest of honors

Every year, a specific country (or sometimes, a few) is appointed as the Guest of Honors at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The guest nation exhibits its literature and culture to thousands of international attendees through panel discussions, book readings by authors from the host country or cultural events.

By being chosen as the Guest of Honor, countries are given exposure on an international scale throughout the five-day event. It provides a platform for cultural exchange, boosting tourism and economic returns to the host country.

The Guest of Honor status is highly competitive as many countries vie each year to be chosen by Frankfurt Book Fair committee members. Recent Guests of Honor include Canada (2020/2021), Norway (2019), Georgia (2018) and France (2017).

5. A fantastic place to network internationally

The Frankfurt Book Fair is a fantastic place for publishers, authors or anyone from the publishing industry to network. It is an excellent opportunity for people to connect with publishers, meet peers and other industry professionals.

Publishers can gain exposure in front of potential customers or business partners. The Frankfurt Book Fair offers a platform where deals are made, or collaborations occur daily during these five days over books, print media and digital content across all forms.

It is also a fantastic event to look at the major trend and the “next big thing” in publishing. Many new technologies that end up in mainstream publishing began at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Conclusion

If you are in the publishing industry, then the Frankfurt Book Fair is definitely a place you would want to experience, even only once.

While distance and cost could be a challenge, beginning in 2020, the event began to be held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The virtual arrangement makes it easier for people from anywhere over the world to access the programs online. Some of the programs are even offered without you having to pay for a pass!

Talking about the Frankfurt Book Fair programs, I need to start looking at their schedules now. This year, I will be participating virtually all the way 10,000 km from my place here.

Off to work. 

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