World’s biggest book fair begins in Frankfurt

World's biggest book fair begins in Frankfurt
Photo: DPA
The 62nd annual Frankfurt Book Fair kicked off on Wednesday, honouring literature from Argentina and focusing on the digital and multimedia innovations that are rapidly transforming the industry.

Some 7,533 exhibitors from 111 countries are expected this year, a three-percent increase on the previous year, the fair’s director Jürgen Boos told reporters.

“Well-told stories are the engine of the book fair and new technologies ensure one thing above all: the demand for content is increasing,” Boos told reporters. “The book is not dead but it is true that our industry is undergoing profound change.”

Gottfried Honnefelder, president of the German publishers and booksellers association which organises the fair, said only about one percent of the €9.6-billion German book market was currently made up by digital offerings.

However, he said he could see the market rising to 10 percent in the near future.

During the five-day fair – which the public can attend on Saturday and Sunday – the growing digital publishing sector will have its own section, called “Frankfurt Hot Spots,” where readers can explore emerging technologies.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle celebrated the fair’s official opening on Tuesday evening, and Westerwelle commented on the future of publishing.

“I dare to predict that the electronic book will not replace the printed book but complement it,” he told guests. “The book will outlive all those people who today want to dig its grave.”

Kirchner, who said she was an “avid reader,” also said she expected the printed word to survive “as long as the word exists.”

Among this year’s prominent guests are Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass, US author Jonathan Franzen, and British author Ken Follett, who plans to present a multimedia version of his popular novel “Pillars of the Earth.”

Singer David Bowie will also be on hand to promote a new book featuring 100 items from his personal life, entitled “Object.”

And at least one Australian publisher decided to buck the digital trend this year, as Gordon Cheers unveiled a six-by-nine-foot (two-by-three-metre) Atlas on Wednesday.

Yours for a cool $100,000, the last book even close in size to his 128-page volume was the Klencke Atlas, produced in 1660 as a gift for Charles II of England.

“But that was about one foot smaller than this,” Cheers proudly told AFP. “This is the first time a book this size has ever been seen.”

Just to turn a page takes all his strength and the book took people three hours to get into position.

“It’s all about creating a legacy,” the Sydney-based publisher said. “Today, everything is digital and it’s gone in a second. This will still be around in 500 years.”

The book took around a month to produce and Cheers is limiting the print run of his monster Atlas to 31. He has already sold two volumes to museums in the United Arab Emirates and is confident he will sell the whole lot.

AFP/The Local/ka

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