It’s been a decade of intense change for book publishers, as technology continues to redefine some of the industry’s core practices. For those heading to the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair (October 8–12), perhaps the best lesson on how to approach change may come from fair organizers themselves: embrace it. “For a long time now, we’ve been talking about the changes that lie ahead,” says Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair. “Well, now they’ve arrived.”
Fair organizers have worked hard in recent years to update the conference program, and those efforts have paid off. From a revamped professional program, and new conferences like ConTec and StoryDrive, to the addition and expansion of Wi-Fi hot spots and Sparks stages in the exhibit halls, the fair has succeeded in attracting new partners from the tech, digital media, and content businesses. And these new partnerships have helped keep attendance at surprisingly strong levels—especially impressive considering a stubborn global recession. As the old saw goes, change is now the only constant, and those going to Frankfurt in 2014 will see a host of new efforts. These developments culminate in a new hall layout in 2015, the first major reorganization in decades.
Among the innovations this year are a new premium membership option—the Frankfurt Book Fair Business Club, which features a “flexible program of conferences, consultations, social events”—and new physical spaces located in Hall 4.0, which are billed as “a peaceful haven for working, talks, and meetings.” Fairgoers will also notice the expansion of the Self-Publishing Area, where current and aspiring authors can discuss their ideas and experiences.
Meanwhile, the lifeblood of the fair—the rights trade—is surging. Officials reported last month that registrations for the Literary Agents & Scouts Centre (LitAg) have set a new record. With 456 tables booked, the rights center is sold out, surpassing last year’s record of 448 tables.
Without question, the book business is changing rapidly: international rights markets are merging, and the old boundaries between books, e-books, apps, films, and games are blurring. As technology advances, the publishing value chain also evolves, with new opportunities for authors and publishers to connect directly with readers. And as publishing adapts, so too does the Frankfurt Book Fair.