Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The 62nd Frankfurt Book Fair opened last Tuesday and closed on Sunday. Promoters crowed that exhibitors were up by 3% to 7,533, but Publishers Marketplace (PM) wryly pointed out that those exhibitors occupied the same space as previous fairs. PM did indicate that the number of literary agents attending was up almost 4% to 522.

One hundred eleven countries were in attendance with Argentina recognized as this year's guest of honor.

The international news agency AFP quoted German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the official opening, "I dare to predict that the electronic book will not replace the printed book but complement it. The book will outlive all those people who today want to dig its grave..."

Westerwelle's attitude is no surprise, given that AFP estimates that digital books only comprise "one percent of the 9.6-billion-euro German book market."

The big news was non-news. There had been an expectation that Google would launch its Google Editions at this year's fair. That didn't happen although there's still an expectation that it will before year's end.

I'm going to direct you to a couple of locations where you can read more about the Fair:

Digital publishing and e-books were on everyone's mind. On Tuesday morning, the Tools of Change (TOC) conference highlighted media wonk Douglas Rushkoff. A graduate of Princeton with a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Rushoff teaches Media Studies at The New School in New York City.

Rushkoff endeared himself to the TOC audience with this suggestion published in The Bookseller:
"What we are contending with is the fact that not as many of us are needed as used to be. Publishing can get on better if it only needs to support about 40% of the people it currently employs."
Of course, I agree with him. The publishing industry of today resembles an inverted pyramid with the tiny tip supporting a massive structure. The entire edifice is poised to tip over unless its architects take action to create a more balanced structure.

Go here to read The Bookseller article.

FutureBook.net had another interesting article, this one about the panel discussion on Friday titled "The eBook Business: Who's in Control?" The Secretary General of the International Publishers Association (IPA) moderated the round table discussion between Victoria Barnsley, CEO of HarperCollins UK; Ronald Schild of Libreka (a conglomerate of German publishers who launched their own version of Google Book Search three years ago); and our own Mike Shatzkin, whom I often quote on this blog.
The panel agreed that, with ebooks currently accounting for approximately 15% of trade sales in the United States, it no longer made any sense to have a separate strategy for ebooks: digital had instead to be at the heart of a more general publishing strategy.
Shatzkin warned that the bookstore, as we know it, seems to be on its last legs.

Barnsley brought up the issue raised by Evan Schnittman at the Digital Book World Conference in March of this year when he said he thought the agency model was about "the publisher as the direct distributor through Apple to a consumer ... the first direct line to a customer ..." At that time Larry Kirschbaum said, "Publishers have never really had to deal ... with their ultimate consumer. They've gone through intermediaries--whether it's retailers or distributors. Now they're in the game of dealing with their ultimate consumer ..."

Go here to read FutureBook.net's blog.

Go here to read Part I and Part II of my March posts on the Digital Book World Conference. The comments I just mentioned came from Part I.

I love the idea of watching publishers trying to cozy up to their readers. Can't you just picture a publishing house exec walking up to you on a moonlit night, opening his unbelted khaki raincoat and asking, "Wanna buy a hot book?"

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