Quietly yet inexorably, the Frankfurt Book Fair management is readying the launch of a low-cost electronic rights service containing options available from competing commercial services, including secure communication and a negotiating platform. In a first step, Frankfurt went online with a year-round rights catalogue open to all, including nonexhibitors at the fair, with a comprehensive search engine and the possibility for paid subscribers to update their own entries. A supplementary feature, christened e-stands, enables publishers to present company profiles and catalogues under the Frankfurt flag. At the moment, the online catalogue lists and describes some 21,000 titles from more than 60 countries.

Beginning this summer, the fair will introduce its negotiating platform: a "private area" for the exchange of information, sample chapters or full manuscripts—guaranteed secure "so that even we in Frankfurt can't look at it," promised Marifé Boix García, head of the fair's new e-business department. Fees have been established for listings in the online catalogue and book fair Who's Who, as well as for title listings—e.g., DM 100 per year for up to 25 titles, DM 300 for 26 to 100. (Count DM 2.2 to one U.S. dollar.) Fees for the negotiating service have yet to be determined.

In keeping with its pro bono function, the fair will also offer tools such as standard contracts for companies and countries not yet part of the international marketplace.