Germany has begun to open to travelers and the Frankfurt Book Fair is planning on hosting a live, in-person fair this October 20-24. “It will be smaller in scale and more focused,” Juergen Boos, the fair director, told PW. A number of virtual events are also being planned and the city of Frankfurt will again host author events for the general public. The fair will feature exhibits in Halls 3, where the German stands are, as well as Halls 4 and 6 for the international guests. Canada, the guest of honor, will offer stands from Quebec, for French literature in Hall 4, and Lives Canada Books, covering English literature, in Hall 6.
“Right now we have commitments from all the major German publishers and 95% of the European national stands, as well as Scandinavia,” Boos said. He added that several countries from south Asia, including Indonesia and the Philippines, are committed and China will be present through publishing representatives already in Europe. North American and U.K. bookings remain slow, he confirmed.The Literary Agents Center will also return and has already 100 tables booked. The International Publishers Association and WIPO are planning events. The fair will also host its esteemed fellowship program once again.
Frankfurt’s digital rights platform, Frankfurt Rights, continues to be operational. The overall number of virtual events, though, will be trimmed from last year and signature events, such online B2B conferences, are likely to be staggered around the dates of the fair to enable fairgoers to participate as much as possible. It is likely some online events will also be ticketed and require paid admission.
“Everyone is quite positive about the fair taking place in the autumn and we expect a lot of last-minute bookings,” said Boos, who added that the fair will refund the fees for anyone who is unable to attend for whatever reason. “So there is no financial risk at all,” he said.
Of course, whether or not hotels in the city will do the same remains to be seen, though Boos said that they appear to be offering more flexible cancellations policies than in the past.
Other changes fairgoers will see include fewer stages as well as fewer members of the general public, such as students. “We are going to be much more restrictive about who we let in as a trade visitor this year,” said Boos. Public facing activities will be relegated to the Festhalle on the fairgrounds, which will also hosts a television and streaming broadcast studio, like last year. The Arts + cross media program will go ahead, but others, such as the Gourmet Gallery and Weltempfang, the fair’s political program, will no longer take place.
“Last year was not a good financial year for the book fair,” said Boos, and saw the closing of the German Book Office in New York and numerous senior staff leave the organization. “We had to downsize, and we had stopped a lot of side activities,” said Boos. Nevertheless, he is determined to see a revival of the fair’s fortunes this year.
“Our theme this year is ‘Re:connect’, and we believe after a year of not traveling, not getting together, everyone will be eager to see each other,” Boos said. “So far, we have only gotten positive responses from our news that we plan to go ahead with the live trade show. We are very optimistic.”
Lukewarm U.S. Interest
A quick survey by PW of various publishers found lukewarm interest in attending the fair. Health concerns remain an issue as does the uncertainty about who will actually be at the fair to meet. One American who is making the trip is Jon Malinowski, president of the American Collective Stand. Malinowski said he is taking about 25 publishers to Frankfurt as part of the USA Pavilion.
This story has been updated with information about plans by American publishers to attend the fair.