Frankfurt’s The Markets: Global Publishing Summit took place on Tuesday, the opening event of the Fair’s premium events program dubbed “The Business Club,” and offered insight into seven publishing markets around the world.
This year, the U.K. was of interest to most attendees because of the consternation over Brexit. But those going to The Markets do so largely to explore developing markets, which this year included the the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, and Poland. The Frankfurt Guest of Honor, The Netherlands and Flanders, was represented, as well as two established markets that have suffered setbacks in recent years, Spain and Brazil.
For many countries, a moment in the Frankfurt spotlight is an opportunity to educate audiences. For example, it is unlikely many in attendance were aware that “just 40 years ago, half the population of the UAE was illiterate,” said Walid Aradi of Tahseen Consulting in Dubai, “and today that is just 1%.” In addition, the country imports more than $100 million in books a year, largely education and textbooks, and all in English (currently, the U.K. dominates the import market there, though the U.S. is expected to over take from the U.K. this decade).
Ala’ Al Sallal is the founder and CEO of Jamalon, an online retailer known as “the Amazon.com of the Arab world” and is based in Dubai. He noted that, following the troubles that have hit Egypt, the UAE now rivals Lebanon as the home of Arabic books and his own firm has added POD services to help some 3,000 publishers in the region reach new markets by reducing production and distribution costs.
With the Philippines in the spotlight this year, more than 40 representatives from the country’s publishing industry made the trip.. Among those was Andrea Pasion-Flores, the nation’s only literary agent, as well as Alvin Juban, president of the Game Developers Association of the Philippines, who joked that the country of 100 million people had become “fatalistic” about their place in the world and the fact that the country’s best known export is labor in the form of domestic workers. “But, I am here to tell you, we are the future,” said Juban, who noted that the Philippines had the highest rate of Internet consumption in the world, at some six-and-a-half hours a day. “Can you imagine what that does to productivity in the workplace?” he joked, and by extension what the opportunity might be for content creators.
As always, innovation remains a byword when it comes to those discussing “the future” of publishing, The Markets had its share of digerati. But it was Antwerp-based mobile developer Jef van der Avoort of Squirl — an app that adds an augmented story layer to maps facilitating book discovery — who stood out from the crowd, not only for his bright orange shirt emblazoned with his company’s logo, but in noting that he was “an outsider” who came to the book business from Lego, where he worked in marketing. “What surprises me,” he said, “is that this is the only industry I know where the people who work in it consume more of their product than do the consumers themselves. Everyone here is a book lover. Our challenge [as an industry] is in reaching the people who are not book lovers.”