Frankfurter Buchmesse: Four German Houses Sign on Together

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Four German publishing houses—Aufbau, C.H. Beck, Klett-Cotta, and Suhrkamp—announce they will attend the physical Frankfurter Buchmesse with a joint stand.

A designer’s conceptual illustrations of the ARD broadcast center planned for the physical Frankfurter Buchmesse shows broadly distanced seating in the Festhalle. Image: FBM

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

ARD’s Broadcast Center in the Festhalle
As world publishers, industry visitors, and vendors study the question of whether it will be possible to participate in the physical component of Frankfurter Buchmesse, the trade show this morning (July 17) has announced that four key independent German houses—Aufbau, C.H. Beck, Klett-Cotta, and Suhrkamp—are working together to stage a joint stand at the fair, October 14 to 18.

Travel restrictions remain one of the biggest unknowns for the trade outside of Europe, of course, as the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic wears on, currently with its greatest force in the United States and in Latin America.

For German publishing professionals—many of whom are currently this month in a debate over the pace with which Germany is responding to the European Union’s Digital Single Market directive—travel is much less a concern, of course, and many are weighing their best approach to a fair at Messe Frankfurt that will be augmented by an international digital evocation.

Today’s news that the publishing houses Aufbau, C.H. Beck, Klett-Cotta, and Suhrkamp expect to be on-site in a shared presence among specially distanced stands has come with commentary from each.

Constanze Neumann

At Berlin’s Aufbau Verlage, Constanze Neumann is quoted, speaking to the practicality of this joint approach for her company.

She says, “After carefully considering how on one hand we can take the opportunity to present our authors this autumn an, on the other hand protect the health of our employees—which is our top priority—the solution that emerged was a collective stand, which can be realized simply and without a large number of staff.”

Jonathan Beck

In Munich, Jonathan Beck at C.H. Beck says, “We are looking forward to a fair that will undoubtedly be different to what we’ve experienced before.

“At the same time, we know there’s a chance the fair will have to be cancelled, whether because too few publishers come to Frankfurt or because the medical situation requires it.

“As for the latter point, we trust that Frankfurter Buchmesse and the relevant authorities will assess the situation in a responsible manner.”

Jonathan Landgrebe

At Berlin’s Suhrkamp Verlag, Jonathan Landgrebe, who followed Ulla Unseld-Berkéwicz in 2015 as the house’s publisher,  is quoted, saying, “The book fair is very important to us.

“It’s a highlight in the annual literary calendar and drives interactions between authors and the public, writers and their readers.

“We are therefore very pleased that the book fair team has proposed a plan that will make it possible for us to have an exhibition stand, despite the difficult circumstances.”

Tom Kraushaar

And at Klett-Cotta Verlag in Stuttgart, “Again this year, we want to do everything we can to ensure the success of our authors.

“At the same time, we want to support the institution of Frankfurter Buchmesse as the venue for a social dialogue that we need more than ever.”

Frankfurt’s Lars Birken-Bertsch, in referencing the arrangement says that it “sends a signal to the entire industry” in terms of these publishers’ commitment to having a presence at the 2020 hybrid program.

“This year we must learn to combine measures that protect the public health,” Birken-Bertsch says, “with activities important to culture and society.”

Plans and Proposals: The Digital Program

Image: FBM, presentation for news media and exhibitors

In digital meetings this week with members of the news media and with prospective exhibitors, Buchmesse organizers are explaining some aspects of the online element of the program and points of intersection anticipated between the physical event on the ground in Frankfurt and the digital iteration housed at buchmesse.de.

One such element is expected to be a broadcast center set in the Festhalle (see the image at the top of this article), with the Literary Agents and Scouts Center, or LitAg, moved this year to a refurbished Hall 6.1.

Katja Böhne

ARD is the consortium of public-service broadcasters from various parts of Germany, and it’s planning to air content from the fair to its viewers, with streaming capability, of course, for the digital evocation of the trade show. In a news conference this week, Frankfurt’s marketing and communications lead, Katja Böhne, spoke of how pleased the fair is to have ARD’s participation. For the most part, conference programming will be produced as part of the digital array, while this physical studio at the Festhalle will provide a spacious setting for taping or live-streaming various activities.

In terms of audience capacity for televised events from the Festhalle, “We hope to be able to have participants here,” Böhne told the press. “Under the current situation, we’re able to have something like 400 people attend events” that might be produced at the broadcast center. While fluctuations can be expected in the virus conditions in Germany and in the state of Hesse—which could mean larger or smaller capacity for an audience—the broadcast center, she said, is expected to serve as “the nucleus of the fair. It’s our mainstage where our events will take place this year.”

Additional broadcasters participating are ZDF, 3sat, ARTE, Deutsche Welle, and Deutschlandfunk. Media partners are to include Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Der Spiegel.

Image: FBM, presentation for news media and exhibitors

Frankfurt “attendees”—whether there IRL, in real life, or online—are to be given free access to the full range of categorized events, from conference events to rights and matchmaking facilities.

Publishers and exhibitors are expected to be able to upload multimedia content as well as still shots and other assets, in displaying online their catalogues. They’ll also be able to upload events in other venues.

Image: FBM, presentation for news media and exhibitors

And on pages carrying thematically categorized messaging—as in food-related publishing, children’s publishing, and so on—participants are to have opportunities to place their own messaging, linking users out to their own sites or other resources.

As Jenny Kühne, Frankfurt’s key account manager in rights and licensing said, the program’s matchmaking tool for meetings is to be available both onsite and in the main portal, and the online Frankfurt Rights element is being designed to house a company profile, the presentation of titles for translation rights offers, document sharing, and—for rights buyers—access to catalogues and to rights holders as needed.

Image: FBM, presentation for news media and exhibitors

We’ll have more details of the developing offer as it becomes available.

At this writing, the 11:34 a.m. ET update (1534 GMT) of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows a world caseload of 13,859,486 infections and 591,157 deaths at the global scale.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here. More on the German market is here. And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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