Exactly what is going on with the book business? A week after a folk singer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, a painter gave the opening talk at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

In a charming (although fairly quiet) address at the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair's opening press conference, legendary British artist David Hockney let his iPad do most of the talking—the 79 year-old painter narrated as his device played back drawings that he had done, allowing Hockney both to show and tell reporters how the iPad rekindled his love of drawing.

“The marvelous thing about it, I could wake up in the morning and straight away start drawing,” Hockney noted. “Everything is there at my fingertips, including the colors.” While he noted some disadvantages to digital drawing, such as the glass surface offering “no resist” such as one gets from paper, he praised the device for its ease of use.

“I’ve always liked to draw,” he said. “Who would have thought the telephone would bring back drawing? Well, it did.”

Hockney is on hand as part of the Frankfurt Book Fair’s THE ARTS+ conference, a new program at the fair dedicated to the future of art and other creative content as digital continues to change the digital media landscape. The Arts program is the latest addition in Frankfurt's quest to converge all media within the fair.

“More intensively than ever before, we’ll be addressing the question of how creative people, the originators of intellectual property, can live from their work,” fair director Juergen Boos explained. “What business models are needed, what regulations and laws? And what networks exist to facilitate exchanges internationally?”

But as the 2016 book fair opens, it was also clear that world events are weighing heavily on the minds of fair organizers. In his address to reporters, Boos spoke of the urgent political and social questions of today, including the humanitarian disaster in Syria, "migration and integration" challenges facing Western Europe, and threats to freedoms of speech and opinion in many countries, including Turkey where a crackdown has seen upwards of 30 publishers shut down following an attempted coup.

Boos said that handling today’s global political challenges requires “a culture of open discussion, and of robust civility,” and stressed that literature can help.

In his address to reporters, Heinrich Riethmüller, president of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, agreed. “In our times of division, dissent and confrontation, it is important for the book and media industry to perform its role,” Riethmuller observed. “Books underpin the spread of knowledge, stories and experiences. Never have book people and cultural professionals been more important than they are today.”

The fair unofficially starts today, with The Markets pre-conference, and officially opens Wednesday. In total, more than 7,100 exhibitors from over 100 countries will be on hand at the fair, which runs through October 23. Organizers say they expect around 275,000 visitors this year, including the public portion of the fair. Meanwhile, on the professional side, fair officials said the Literary Agents & Scouts Center (LitAg) has once again set a record for attendance, with over 700 agents registered to attend.