Attendance at the Frankfurt Book Fair dipped slightly this year, but not nearly as much as organizers had expected given the state of the global economy. Attendance for the first three days of the fair, before the gates were opened to the public, stood at 149,945, down 1.7% from the 152,530 attendees in 2009 for the same three-day period. Organizers, however, were encouraged by the numbers given the global economic recession, and by a late rally that boosted attendance, and rise in rights center activity.

Katja Bohne told PW there were some anxious moments in the beginning of the year as budget questions led to slow registration, attendance surged late, particularly among exhibitors, where an additional 500 exhibitors registered in September alone, including a contingent of Greek publishers, that made plans to attend just days before the fair.

Despite the slight dip, Bohne said organizers were very pleased with the energy of this year’s show, particularly the success of the fair’s digital initiatives, including its StoryDrive multimedia initiative, and the Frankfurt SPARKS program, spearheaded by Thomas Minkus of the German Book Office, which put exhibition stages in the middle of Hall 8. “The idea was to show that digital has already arrived, that it is in the middle of publishing industry, not on the outside,” said Bohne. “We thought this was necessary. This is a statement.”

Bohne said that next year’s fair will build on this year’s successful digital initiatives, an effort to shift the trade show toward great storytelling, and content, and the ways in which gamers, filmmakers, and other multimedia players can work with publishers.

She also said organizers would look into expanding the rights center, where traffic has increased in recent years. “We have to do something, it is too crowded.” While there has been some talk at the fair of how digital would affect the future of rights trading in Frankfurt, Bohne said rights activity is in fact increasing, and that the focus on rights trading and “content” will be even bigger in the coming years.