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It’s that time of year again. On October 12, the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair kicks off, the publishing industry’s annual pilgrimage to Germany, where rights are traded, connections are made, and more than 150,000 trade visitors, representing some 7,500 companies and 110 countries, come together to do (and to talk) business.

Then again, with the launch last year of its ambitious Frankfurt Academy, Frankfurt is never far off any more. From its roots as a once-a-year event, Frankfurt is quickly becoming a year-round platform, with a slate of affiliated international conferences, seminars, and other trips. And with a revamped, Web-based platform—the Mind Network—Frankfurt organizers have embraced the digital change now hitting the publishing industry, and harnessed it to extend its brand, its reach, and to promote an ongoing exchange of ideas within the publishing industry.

Despite a global recession, last year’s fair exceeded expectations, both in terms of attendance and in terms of energy, with a slate of new programs focusing on digital. And despite questions about the future of rights-based fairs in the digital age, traffic in the rights center surged, hitting record levels last year. As a result, in 2011 the Literary Agents & Scouts Center (LitAg), the meeting place for international literary agents, has expanded, with more square footage as well as a new meeting place in the StoryDrive Business Center for a range of creative industries, including books, games, films, and more.

The fair’s professional program is also expanding. The “Frankfurt Sparks” program is back, which includes a slate of speakers and brief, 20-minute presentations right on the show floor. There are new conferences on e-books, metadata, and children’s books. And back for its third year is the O’Reilly Tools of Change Conference.

Meanwhile, many of the hot topics facing the industry are already up for discussion on the Frankfurt Web site, including a new campaign called “EveryThink.” EveryThink put 20 questions to 20 industry professionals—a great way to frame the forthcoming fair. Check out the full responses on the Frankfurt blog, but to whet your appetite for the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair, we’ve included some clips.

Look for PW’s coverage of the fair online at PW.com and in our show daily at the fair, the Frankfurt Fair Dealer.

Lynette Owen, Pearson Education Ltd.

Q: Economic recession, natural disasters, and radical political change in many countries in the Middle East—and in publishing, the burgeoning sales of e-books and apps, a new generation of dedicated e-book readers, tablets like the Apple iPad. What’s the effect on rights trading?”

“Challenging times, indeed, and rights staff need to be sure that they are up to speed in a world that is fast moving, but not at a consistent pace from market to market,” notes Owen. The economic recession hit some markets for translation rights hard, she notes, while others, like China and Brazil (the latter to be featured at this year’s Rights Directors Meeting), have flourished. The digital scene is, of course, increasingly complex. “The Anglophone companies are undoubtedly leading the way in digital sales, but increasingly electronic rights are being requested as part of the grant of translation or same-language reprint rights. Whether to add those rights to a print license will depend very much on the maturity of the e-book market in the country concerned,” Owen notes. “It may be worth bearing in mind,” she adds, “that a reliable legitimate licensee in a market subject to electronic piracy may be a valuable ally.”

You can hear more from Lynette Owen at the seminar “Rights Express,” part of the Professional Program “Best Practice / New Ideas” on October 12, 2011, 9:15–11 a.m., Frankfurt Book Fair, Hall 4.C, Room Entente.

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