Introducing Frankfurt Book Fair’s First International Publishing Distribution Forum

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With distributors ‘expanding their services to cover a larger part of the value chain,’ the Frankfurter Buchmesse and IPDA inaugurate a new Distribution Forum.

At Frankfurt Book Fair 2016. Image: Frankfurter Buchmesse, Alexander Heimann

By Marie Bilde | @MarieBilde

‘Identifying Needs for Optimization’

A new offering at Frankfurt Book Fair: distributors and publishers will have the opportunity to meet when the International Publishing Distributors Association (IPDA) presents the debut of its International Publishing Distribution Forum.

The plan is to make the forum an annual event at the Fair.

IPDA is an umbrella organization of distributors of print and digital work, including books and newspapers, magazines, and more. The organization was founded two years ago, and the gathering of different kinds of distributors under one roof is copied from IPDA’s Spanish counterpart, Federation of National Associations of Distributors of Editions (FANDE).

The organization’s 22 member-companies are mainly digital distributors, large and small, from the United States, Canada and Europe.

José Manuel Anta is the managing director of IPDA as well as of Spain’s Federation of Book, Print Media and Digital Contents Distributors (FANDE).

Publishing Perspectives interviewed Anta from his offices in Madrid.

We began by asking how distributors who work in similar but traditionally separate markets (books and press distribution) and in different channels (print and digital) can benefit from associating with one another in an organization like IPDA.

‘Strong Proponents of Standardization’

José Manuel Anta

José Manuel Anta: Actually, the different parties can learn a lot from each other. For example, book distributors can learn from the logistics experience of newspaper distributors, who have always delivered “one item to one customer on the precise date.”

Another example is print on demand. Bringing together digital and physical book distributors could lead to new and better ways of handling POD. These books are at the same time digital and physical. POD books are not stored in a warehouse. As long as they are not bought by anyone, they only exist as digital files on a server. However, as soon as copies are sold and printed, they still need to be delivered.

Moreover, as media forms converge towards each other and the distinction between different products become more blurred, I think we will see a growing number of distributors trying to expand their proposition by, for example, expanding their services and thereby to cover a larger part of the value chain.

PP: Would you say that IPDA works more on a commercial and/or strategic level than in a technical approach?

“The Distribution Forum is where publishers can find relevant distributors, and where distributors can present their various services.”José Manuel Anta

JMA: We work on both levels. In order to serve both publishers and retailers in the best possible way, distributors need to follow the development of the market and its business models closely.

But as we find ourselves in the middle–right between publishers and retailers (and libraries)–we’re often identifying needs for optimization before anyone else. So of course we have a strong interest in a strong and smooth supply chain. We’re also strong proponents of standardization at all relevant levels.

PP: What have you planned for the event on October 12 in Frankfurt?

JMA: Our event in Frankfurt is mainly a networking event. We want to create room for meeting and sharing information.

The Distribution Forum is where publishers can find relevant distributors, and where distributors can present their various services. This year, a Buchmesse representative and I will each give a short introduction to the event and to the state of distribution. Our focus will mainly be on commercial opportunities.

And hereafter, there will be activities supporting conversation and knowledge sharing.

PP: Which are your most important activities at other parts of the year?

IPDA is an umbrella organization of distributors of print and digital work, including books and newspapers, magazines, and more.

JMA: We have two main events during the year among our IPDA projects and services: The first one is called a European Press Distribution Round Table and it’s presented in collaboration with Distripress, the association for international circulation of the press (newspapers, magazines, periodicals and paperbacks).

Secondly, we organize the International Digital Distributors Meeting each year in June in Madrid, coinciding with the Spanish Book Fair. It always comprises a closed business meeting for the registered participants as well as an open meeting with activities of broader industry interest.

The first meeting took place four years ago. At that time, Spain’s FANDE organized it, but when IPDA was founded, it was more natural to entrust the new organization with the event. Our 2017 meeting last June had 150 participants and China was special guest.

We also maintain an ongoing activity, in that we compile a comprehensive database of distributors. It grows bigger and bigger, and we keep adding new posts. This distributor database can become a powerful tool for publishers of all kinds who are looking for a distributor in a given market.


The International Publishing Distribution Forum networking event will take place at the business lounge and stage of the Hot Spot Publishing Services in Hall 4.0, J25 on Thursday, October 12, at 5:30 pm. More information and free registration can be found here

About the Author

Marie Bilde

A digital publishing enthusiast focused on disruption, infrastructure, globalization, and new business models, Marie Bilde has spent 20 years in various areas of Danish publishing, holding positions as lexicographer, digital editor, and manager of digital production and distribution. Today she works as an independent book industry consultant.

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