‘Aldus Up’ at Frankfurt: Preparing for the Relaunch of Trade Fairs

In News by Porter Anderson

The 20-fair Aldus network of European book fairs and trade shows is examining how best to go forward from the pandemic.

At the 2019 Antwerp Book Fair. Image: Aldus Up

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

See our complete guide to Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020 here. It has our latest stories, event highlights, our free digital magazine, and more.

Levi: ‘New Opportunities for Digital and Physical Interactions’
As  Frankfurter Buchmesse ramps up to its digital iteration (October 14 to 18), Aldus—the network of major European book fairs—is opening a program called “Aldus Up.” Indeed, it appears from how the logo is used on the Aldus site that the organization itself is now branding itself as Aldus Up.

The project is funded by the European Commission and encourages digital development of community-building between readers and publishers. It’s also meant to “revolutionize the trade fair system and make it sustainable” after the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Several questions are being asked and addressed in this effort, including;

  • What are the trends in European publishing markets after the epidemic?
  • How can exchanges between different countries be stimulated?
  • How are reading habits and cultural consumption changing?
  • How can we use digital technologies to redesign fairs and the market for exchanging rights?

As part of this broad inquiry, Aldus Up has scheduled four professional meetings during Buchmesse’s dense programming.

The questions and the overall issue, of course, is close to the Aldus mission. The consortium of 20 trade shows and fairs—from Lisbon, Vilnius, and Thessaloniki to Madrid, to Goteborg, Prague, and Rome—works “to innovate and boost book fairs from a European perspective, promoting the exchange of translation rights between countries and the internationalization of the publishing sector.

Co-funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe program, the four years project is coordinated by the Italian publishers’ association (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE),  and is born out of the experience of Aldus, a network set up in 2016 that today involves 20 European events. Four of them are fully internationalized: Frankfurt, London Book Fair, Bologna, and Spain’s Liber program.

Aldus Fairs Saw 4.7 Million Visitors in 2019

Ricardo Franco Levi

In a prepared statement, AIE president Ricardo Franco Levi—who, as we’ve reported, also has just become the vice-president of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP)—is quoted, saying, “The new global post-pandemic environment emphasizes, and to some extent makes even more urgent, the need for innovation within the book fairs system.

“We want to create a new future for the communities of readers and publishers, building new opportunities for digital and physical interactions.

“Among our objectives, we plan to exploit the potential of digital technologies to combine off-line and online events; to promote new studies on translation trends in Europe and the impact of digitization on reading habits and publishing production; to experiment with new distributed events in the cities; and to make book fairs more accessible to different kinds of audiences in a spirit of inclusion—from people with disabilities to immigrant communities.”

There’s an irony here, of course, in that—as we discuss in our newly released Frankfurter Buchmesse Special Edition magazine, Frankfurt Through a Screen—the digital evocation of book industry trade shows and fairs is, if anything, raising the awareness of what’s not accomplished outside the digital realm. The loss of the ability to meet and do business in person is a major one for world publishing professionals.

Nevertheless, the industry’s own adaptation of digital channels—not unlike a jump in digital format adoption among consumers—has highlighted untapped and as-yet unperfected means of performing business and collegial functions in digital alternatives.

The fairs of the Aldus network comprised an aggregate of more than 4.7 million visitors in 2019, with a total exhibition area of close to 500,000 square meters of events space (5.4 million square feet). In terms of programming, these shows produced more than 4,000 events last year.

Clearly, there’s much to discuss about needs—both met and unmet in the disruption of the pandemic. Here is a listing of the events that the Aldus Up effort is staging during Frankfurt Week.

Aldus Up Events at Frankfurter Buchmesse

At the 2019 Liber in Spain. Image: Aldus Up

The Role of Book Fairs in an Increasingly Digital Context 
October 13
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. CEST
1030 GMT
11:30 a.m. BST
6:30 a.m. ET

This is a discussion group on future strategies for book fairs in years to come. In this session, ideas are expected to be generated about three types of fairs:

  • Exclusively professional-facing fairs
  • Fairs with spaces or times dedicated to professionals and the general public
  • Exclusively public-facing fairs

Questions under consideration: Should each or some of the three categories evolve quickly? Must radical changes be introduced to meet their goals? Should those goals be transformed for each of the three categories?


  • Luis González, Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez
  • Elena Pasoli, Bologna Children’s Book Fair
  • Marifé Boix Garcia, Frankfurter Buchmesse

FEP Rendezvous, the annual event, organized by the federation this year as part of Aldus Up
October 15
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. CEST
1030 GMT
11:30 a.m. BST
5:30 a.m. ET

European publishers will have a chance here to ask the European Commission’s Mariya Gabriel and EU policymakers how the Union can support culture—in particular the book sector—amid the impact of COVID-19.

This event can be followed on FEP’s YouTube channel and Facebook page

Inclusive Publishing and Literacy
October 15
4 p.m. CEST
1400 GMT
2 p.m. BST
10 a.m. ET

This program is organized by LitCam and the International Publishers Association‘s (IPA) in coordination with Aldus Up, and is described as “an exclusive in-depth look at a new IPA report looking at the evolution of reading habits around the world.”

The report presentation is to be followed by a panel on literacy and on Aldus Up activities planned in the field of reading habits and reading promotion.

You can find more on the IPA’s series of specialized new reports in our magazine, and more on the Geneva-based association’s own roster of programs is here.

European Accessibility Act: A Chance for Publishers
October 16
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CEST
0930 GMT
10:30 a.m. BST
5:30 a.m. ET

This event is organized by the Federation of European Publishers and the International Publishers Association in coordination with Fondazione LIA and Aldus Up. Any publisher selling their ebooks in Europe in 2025 and all the actors of the e-publishing supply chain will need to respect the European Accessibility Act. This panel gathers international accessibility specialists on the act and how to be compliant.

You can see video presentations for the event from the federation’s new president Peter Kraus vom Cleff here and by IPA president Hugo Setzer here.


  • Luc Audrain, a specialist in digital accessibility
  • Anne Bergman-Tahon, FEP
  • Paolo Casarini, CTO and IT director with Società editrice Il Mulino
  • Peter Kraus vom Cleff, FEP
  • Monica Halil Lövblad, head of the WIPO Accessible Books Consortium
  • Thomas Kahlisch, University of Leipzig
  • Cristina Mussinelli, Fondazione LIA
  • Inmaculada Placencia-Porrero, specialist in disability and inclusion with the European Commission
  • Wendy Reid, accessibility and publishing standards lead at Rakuten Kobo
  • Hugo Setzer, IPA

This very big panel can be followed on Frankfurter Buchmesse’s site. Free registration is required at My Book Fair.

At the 2019 Vienna International Book Fair. Image: Aldus Up

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more from us on the Aldus network is here, more on the International Publishers Association is here, more on the Federation of European Publishers is here, and more on the Italian publishers association’s work is here. And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.