Thursday morning, Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos gave additional details regarding the book fair's plans for this October. He said that visitors to the fairgrounds would be capped at 20,000 people at any one time, but added, "we have people coming in and out of the fair all day long, so that means there will be more than that number who will be able to attend." Last year the fair counted 302,000 visitors over five days.
Asked what would happen should there be a dramatic second wave of Covid-19 infections and deaths in Europe this fall, Boos admitted that the only reasonable thing to do would be to cancel the fair. Should this happen, he affirmed that all parties would be refunded the money they spent on booths in full. "We don't see that happening right now and are focused on coming up with best plan to ensure the health and safety of our guests," he said.
Boos offered some additional details about what might take place, though emphasized several times that things were still in the planning stages. The updated fair plan shows the Literary and Agents Center (LitAg) is moving to Hall 6.1, but if there is demand, it could be expanded to Hall 8, a large hall that housed the English language exhibitors until only a few years ago, if necessary. "We have permission to use as much of the fairgrounds as we need," said Boos. "Many of you have not seen the renovated halls, but some are very big and very nice." The fair may also make more use of outdoor spaces, weather permitting. The Business Club will be eliminated, Boos added, but a solution is being developed for individuals to hold meetings.
All exhibitor booths must be a minimum of 8 sq.-m, or about 86 sq-ft., in size, and to accommodate that requirement Boos said the fair will not charge for the upgrade. Nor will the fair charge additional fees for any of the changes. "This year will be a disaster financially," he admitted, "but we are not profit-driven, and this is what allows us to make changes."
Among the blows the fair will face is the news, confirmed by Boos, that several large German publishing conglomerates have already said they will not be exhibiting at the fair, including Random House, Holtzbrinck, and the German division of the Swedish publisher Bonnier. Those publishers, though, will participate in the fair in other ways. Boos has said that he expects only 30% of the previous year's exhibitors to attend this year. As of today, he said, the fair has yet to see many cancellations, but "that will change." In the meantime, Boos and his team will be calling each exhibitor one by one to find out what they need.
To ensure the Frankfurt community can still engage in business-to-business activity, the fair is developing several online programs. These, said Boos, include a one-day professional conference, as well as numerous seminars and activities. In addition, Boos said the fair will use IPR License, the online rights trading platform it acquired several years ago, to help facilitate rights activity.
"This will not be the same book fair as before," said Boos, candidly. "But the changes we make and tools we implement now will help us have a better book fair in the future." He added that the fair would continue to provide updates every two weeks and any final decisions will be made by the end of August.
All said, there were two welcome pieces of news. First, Boos said the fair was working with the local hotel associations to offer discounted hotel rates and allow for last-minute cancellations. Second, the fair will not be hosting the annual weekend cosplay competition. The competition brings thousands of costumed adolescents and adults dressed as their favorite manga, cartoon, or superhero character to the fair on Saturday and Sunday, a practice which most professional fairgoers find a curious nuisance. "I hope you won't miss them," Boos said.