Frankfurt to ‘Re:Connect’ in October: Exhibitor Registration Opens Today

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Frankfurter Buchmesse announces plans for its 2021 physical and digital trade show, including an updated hall layout, new ‘Frankfurt Workstations,’ and Guest of Honor Canada.

In the Agora at an entrance to Hall 3 at Frankfurter Buchmesse, 2008. Image: FBM, Alexander Heimann

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

Juergen Boos: ‘We Need To See Each Other Again’
There’s a decidedly upbeat tone this morning in Frankfurt. Plans are underway for a physical Frankfurter Buchmesse. We have first details for you today (March 8) as registration opens for on-site participation.

“We’re talking to a lot of people,” says Buchmesse president and CEO Juergen Boos in an interview with Publishing Perspectives for today’s announcement. “Talking to a lot of publishers, a meeting with booksellers yesterday, talking to agents a lot: Everybody’s hoping for Frankfurt in October.

“We need to see each other again. People are looking forward to having it.”

The 73rd edition of the world’s largest book publishing trade show is being planned as an in-person event, themed on that need, to “Re:Connect,” and “with additional digital formats,” as media messaging has it. The idea is to devise a fair that can be “flexibly adapted to pandemic-related events,” following input from the world publishing community that’s largely supportive of the digital functionality developed for the 2020 online edition of the show.

This year’s focus is on the international rights business and public events. And organizers of Guest of Honor Canada are onboard to present their program in the Frankfurt Messe’s Forum. Public health conditions and regulations will apply, of course, but organizers are hoping the fair this year can go forward on the ground for those who can be there.

The registration deadline is May 31, and we can quickly orient you to some of the key details about the anticipated physical program.

FBM’s 2021 Physical Footprint

Physical space usage in the 2021 Frankfurter Buchmesse plan encompasses Halls 3, 4, and 6 as well as the Forum and Festhalle buildings around the Agora. Image: FBM

As regular Frankfurt trade visitors and Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, the sprawling fair complex has been undergoing extensive renovations in various halls. One advantage is that developing a plan for this year’s hoped-for return of a physical fair means working with fresh interiors.

  • Halls in use in 2021 are to include 3, 4 and 6.
  • In addition, the Forum and Festhalle will be in play, as will open-air events in the central Agora.
  • The Literary Agents & Scouts Center (LitAg) will move to Hall 6.2.
  • Frankfurter Buchmesse’s innovation programming areas—The Arts+ and Frankfurt Audio—will be on ground level at the Forum.
  • Guest of Honor Canada’s pavilion will be above The Arts+ and Frankfurt Audio on Level 1 of the Forum.
  • As was introduced to luminous effect in October for the digital edition of Buchmesse, the Festhalle will again host a series of events organized with broadcaster ARD and other media partners, with plans to live-stream that programming. ARD is a consortium of public-service broadcasters from various parts of Germany.
New for 2021: Frankfurt Workstations

Juergen Boos on the 2020 ARD Book Fair Stage, a feature returning this year to the 2021 Buchmesse. Image: FBM, Marc Jacquemin

Debuting this year and potentially interesting to many will be Frankfurt Workstations, designed as a flexible in-person table format available for bookings on a daily basis in Halls 3, 4, and 6, and in the Forum.

“I think this might be important for some of our exhibitors,” Boos says, “especially those coming from abroad and who don’t want to stay for five days. You don’t have to have a stand. You can book a workstation and you can book it for only a day. So we have more flexible formats this year.

“The workstations,” he says, “will look more like the agents’ center, but will be on every level.” This way, trade visitors can conduct meetings and have a base of operation without a stand and the longer stay they might have planned in a year outside the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The halls’ show floors are being designed, according to press materials with “a spacious layout for the exhibition halls along with significantly wider walkways in order to control the flow of visitors.” And this year’s smallest stand will measure 8 square meters (86 square feet) instead of the usual smallest size of 4 square meters.

The price for the larger stand, however, will be the same as it would be for 4 square meters so that exhibitors are paying no more for the safety-geared larger size. This is thanks to funds from the German federal government’s €1 billion (US$1.2 billion) “Neustart Kultur” stimulus package allocated in June 2020 to “Restart Culture.” Because monies from a €4 million (US$4.5 million) grant from Neustart Kultur was provided to Frankfurter Buchmesse under the aegis of culture commissioner Monika Grütters but couldn’t be spent on a physical fair in October 2020, those funds now can come into play this year, Boos says.

Public Access: Three Days This Year

At a Frankfurter Buchmesse BookFest session in the 2020 digitally streamed edition of the show, Christian Stöcker discusses crisis acceleration in the contemporary world and a need to adapt. Image: FBM, Zino Peterek

One of the most interesting elements this year will be a change in when the fairgrounds are opened to members of the public. Normally the trade show runs Wednesday through Friday, and the public is welcomed in on Saturday and Sunday.

This year, Boos says, “We’ll have a really good focus on Wednesday to Friday morning on rights, for instance,” and other elements of the trade. “And then on Friday, we’ll switch to a general audience.”

There’s a twofold rationale to this plan of having public visitors begin seeing the fair on Friday (October 22).

  • First, this is part of a crowd-control plan to spread out the number of public visitors over three days—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—instead of two. In the past, as many as 100,000 people visited Frankfurter Buchmesse on Saturday. It’s anticipated that some level of crowd-size regulation may be in play, and by using pre-registration and a larger block of time, the numbers of visitors can be safely accommodated.
  • Secondly, Boos says, “We have a lot of publishers, especially those from Europe, who want to have more access to the general audience. They want to expose their authors” to the consumer base of these book-interested crowds, “and we have to give them a larger opportunity to do that.”

In essence, then, a more exclusive trade-visitors’ book-business focus on Wednesday and Thursday will give way to a more expansive public engagement period on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Frankfurt’s 2021 Digital Program

On the ARD Book Fair Stage in the 2020 Frankfurter Buchmesse. The stage returns to Frankfurt Messe’s Festhalle this year and will stream live events from the trade show. Image: FBM, Marc Jacquemin

Not least because of the 200,000-user success for Frankfurter Buchmesse’s digital programming in October, the fair has announced that it’s further developing its digital offerings even as it plans for what is hoped to be a physical event. Clearly, both forms of access and participation can be had at once.

  • Organizers say there’s a plan in place to enhance the “matchmaking tool” and the digital rights platform, Frankfurt Rights.
  • The Frankfurt Conference program and the successful networking venue “The Hof” are to be back on the bill this year.
  • The calendar of events and exhibitor catalogue will be available in the Frankfurter Buchmesse app and online.

“After Frankfurter Buchmesse 2020,” Boos says, “we had a number of in-depth discussions with our customers and received very valuable feedback. We are now optimizing our digital offerings based on what we heard,” said Boos.

Guest of Honor Canada

Based on its theme of a “Singular Plurality,” the Canadian guest of honor program in October is being planned “to offer a diverse program to present its literature and culture at Frankfurter Buchmesse this year.”

As participants from October’s digital programming will remember, Canada’s contribution included some 20 presentations as an especially interesting exhibition, Global Warning: Marshall McLuhan and the Arts, was headed for Bern’s Museum für Kommunikation to run through January.

There are a reported 300+ published books and forthcoming releases this year from 248 publishers. Canada’s delegation to Frankfurt is to comprise celebrated authors, illustrators, and artists, and its organizers say they’re keen to be present both in the physical and digital elements of Frankfurt’s 2021 plans.

And in summing up the outlook for October, Boos emphasizes a cancellation provision that will protect exhibitors and trade visitors in the event that the contagion’s conditions go in a direction not anticipated at this point.

“In 2021,” Boos says, “Frankfurter Buchmesse will again be an important meeting place for the book industry, for authors and readers.

“The industry needs an exchange and visibility more than ever,” he says. “In recent months we’ve held in-depth discussions with our customers and created a plan tailored to the needs of our exhibitors. With our updated conditions for participating in the fair, and our generous cancellation policy and flexible program, we want to make it easy for our exhibitors in Germany and around the world to decide in favor of coming to Frankfurt.

“As always, protecting the health of our exhibitors and visitors has top priority. Our planning processes are therefore flexible, allowing us to quickly adapt to changing requirements.”

The Coronavirus in Germany

In the Guest of Honor Flanders and The Netherlands pavilion at the 2016 Frankfurter Buchmesse. Image: FBM, Alexander Heimann

At this writing, the 9:24 p.m.ET (0224 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 2,508,655 cases in Germany’s population of 83 million, with 71,956 fatalities.

These numbers place Germany at the current 10th place in the world for COVID-19 caseloads and ninth in terms of death tolls.

With most of the country’s spread-mitigation measures expected to be extended to March 28, the leadership is looking for ways to begin reopening after some four months of shutdowns. But as Deutsche-Welle reports, one immunology expert, Michael Meyer-Hermann, has suggested that the country’s vaccination strategy might be better based on how many social contacts a citizen has than on her or his age.

Current vaccination protocols have seen 4.9 million people given at least one vaccine injection. Some 2.4 million have had both injections of the two-stage regime and thus are fully vaccinated. These figures, effective as of Friday (March 5) also indicate that more than 170,000 injections were administered on both Thursday and Friday.

There’s good news in Naomi Kresge’s report for Bloomberg Berlin, indicating that the infection rate in citizens 80 and older has dropped by some 80 percent since the start of the vaccine campaign near the end of December. Praise also comes from North Rhine-Westphalia where the state’s health minister says that getting 200,000 people fully vaccinated has seen just 500 people infected in the state, whereas near the new year the state had about 5,000 cases.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on the German market is here, and more on publishing trade shows and book fairs 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 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.