By Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair
Publishers of all sizes earn a significant amount of their revenue from rights and licenses. Rights managers at these publishing companies, as well as literary agents, are most often the people who understand how to “translate” stories, ideas and information into other languages, formats and territories — who know how to turn content into “liquidity.” I believe good rights pros are like diamond experts. They know the potential of their (raw) materials, and they make sure the works of their authors are passed on to competent “cutters and polishers” who can enhance their value.
There was a great tide of optimism in the 1990s when, under its theme of “Frankfurt goes electronic,” the Book Fair filled two levels of a “Multimedia” hall. Publishers were excited about the limitless opportunities presented by interactive CD-ROMs. Ever since then, the industry has been waiting for the moment when the readers were ready for multimedia experiences. Today, as the mass appeal of tablet PCs and e-readers has grown, so has the spectrum of available rights, which now includes digital rights and interactive rights covering emerging digital formats, transmedia collaborations, mobile apps and beyond.
New technologies have increased the pace of both content consumption and creation. There is a tremendous hunger for good stories and ideas, without which the technology itself would be lifeless. As Gottfried Honnefelder, Chairman of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, recently observed sarcastically: without stories, iPads would be nothing but e-waste. This hunger for content means that rights professionals, agents and publishing houses are well set up to face the future. They hold in their hands (and in their archives) the raw material that is so essential — the “content.”
This year, from all directions, whether Germany, the UK or the USA, we are getting the same signal: 2011 will be another breakthrough year for the e-book. According to a new study on e-books by the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, in Germany the industry is expecting 6.6 per cent of total book sales this year to be digital titles. In the USA, the figure is already over eight per cent and rising quickly.
For rights professionals, this means that the value chain for intellectual property is becoming more varied and more complex. It is no longer a linear, two-dimensional flow from author to publisher to consumer. This process has become a three-dimensional “value space” with more players and opportunities than ever before. How do we deal with territorial issues in this age of borderless access to content? What new distribution partners will we need to become familiar with? What are the best solutions for to exploit emerging digital and interactive rights? What exactly do “digital rights” include — and who decides? How do we make it easier to sell rights to other industries, such as film and games? Where does self-publishing fit into this new rights marketplace?
In Frankfurt, we are listening very carefully to the needs of the industry. That’s why, in 2011, we will focus even more on developing a cross-media rights marketplace in Frankfurt. We will expand the Literary Agents Centre and build an entirely new business centre for where rights professionals from the film, games and book industries can meet: the StoryDrive business centre. These new offerings, together with the Rights Directors Meeting — the biggest meeting of rights dealers worldwide — will help create new rights opportunities for publishers, film producers, game developers and the media industry at large.