The Frankfurt Book Fair has canceled its in-person fair and will proceed as an entirely virtual, online-only event. It will take place, as scheduled, October 12-18. The fair cited travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for the cancellation. In an online interview following the announcement, Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos said 800 exhibitors and 40 national stands were affected by the cancellation.

Exhibitors who registered for this year's fair will have their registration converted to one for the digital fair. In addition, exhibitor payments made for space rental will be either refunded or rolled-over into 2021 depending on a company's choice. Registrations for this year and all programs affiliated with the fair will be free through June 2021.

While Boos did not share more details of what will take place he did say "I think we have created the largest portal in book publishing." Boos added, "We have invested a few million euros into this digital platform. We will always have a physical event in Frankfurt and can support the business through these virtual offerings. We are aiming to send a signal of hope. Books are alive. People don't care about the medium, they are interested in storytelling."

The fair plans to release more information about how exhibitors can participate, as well as a program of events, this week. As outlined in previous updates, exhibitors have been told, the fair's website, will serve as an online hub for the fair and will offer content streams for tracks at the fair—such as Frankfurt Kids and Gourmet Gallery—with magazine-style content.

A virtual Exhibitor Catalog is expected to serve as a focal point for the exhibitor or attendees presence. Each exhibitor will have the ability to create a profile that will include a logo, link to their company’s website, social media buttons, and further information. A one page document, such as a rights guide or company presentation, can be made available here as well. The catalog is expected to go live online by mid-September.

As for content, a series of virtual conferences will be thematically arranged by day, and will run from 9 to 11 a.m. ET each day, as follows:

  • October 12: Academic and scholarly publishing
  • October 13: Rights and licensing
  • October 14: Publishing insights
  • October 15: Audio

Exhibitors and participants will also be able to list and promote their own physical, digital or hybrid events, either public or private, in a dedicated calendar of events. The calendar, which is also expected to go live by mid-September, will be searchable.

A new Frankfurt Rights platform will serve a digital online catalog of rights available at the fair. Each digital exhibitor, including agents and rights holders,will be allowed a free company profile, where they can upload their rights guides, title information, rights availability, and previews of titles available to international participants after request.

The fair will go ahead hosting some live author events on the fairgrounds and in the city of Frankfurt throughout the week of the fair. Dubbed, Bookfest, the series of events will feature some 80 authors. Those appearing at live events in the city are primarily from Germany or live in Germany. They include Margit Auer, Max von Thun, Gabriele Krone-Schmalz, Bov Bjerg, Kristof Magnusson, Helmut Zierl, Max Giermann, Anastasia Zampounidis, Christian Stöcker, Andreas Steinhöfel, Eric Mayer, Linda Zervakis and Ahmad Mansour.

Scottish authors Irvine Welsh and John Niven will appear live in conversation, and the Canadian musician Chilly Gonzales, who lives in Germany, will be in conversation with fellow musician Malakoff Kowalski. The virtual Bookfest, taking place on Saturday, October 17 will include several North Americans, such as Elizabeth Gilbert, Don Winslow, Karin Slaughter, and Eliot Weinberger.