Thessaloniki Book Fair: Greece Opens Its ‘Dialogue’ Stage

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Situated at a famous East-West intersection, Thessaloniki this week hosts a new professional program in publishing at its 19th book fair.

An updated photo on Saturday (May 6): Heavy crowds in Building 13 of the Thessaloniki Internatoinal Book Fair prompt hand-selling at stands up and down the fair. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

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

Issues and Networking for Publishing Professionals
Here on the Thermaic Gulf under a sparkling blue sky, the Thessaloniki International Book Fair has taken a major step in a new program, staging a series of industry-issue panel discussions featuring professionals from many parts of the publishing-industry world.

The new “Dialogue” presentation arena is perfectly positioned in the rear of the cavernous Building 13 at the Thessaloniki Exhibition and Congress Center, providing a secluded feel for both the stage and seating area and for the all-new rights center next door—with its tables and chairs for one-on-one meetings.

Although the fair overall is using Halls 12, 13, 14, and 15, this area in Hall 13 has created a new focus at an otherwise public-facing event for a networking-needy industry, as publishing finds its way out of the pandemic years, which for most book-business players meant a flight to online meeting platforms instead of in-person fairs and trade shows.

As we mentioned on May 1 in an advance look at the programming, this 19th edition of the fair is coordinated by Nopi Chatzigeorgiou, and it’s a production of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, in collaboration with Greek publishers, TIF-HelExpo, the Region of Central Macedonia, and the City of Thessaloniki, with support from the Greek ministry of culture and sports.

The program is held under the auspices of the president of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and has drawn a wide cross-section of the international professional community, including Elena Pasoli of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and UNESCO‘s Ian Denison.

Discussions and Observations

From left, Sandra Tamele, Sharif Bakr, Prashant Pathak, and Hiroshi Asami at Thessaloniki International Book Fair’s ‘Dialogue’ discussion of observations on Asian and African markets. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

In one of two sessions today, Publishing Perspectives was joined by Egypt’s Sherif Bakr; Japan’s Hiroshi Asami; Mozambique’s Sandra Tamele; and India’s Prashant Pathak.

Their assignment was part of a “Book Markets Around the World” series, in which Tamele spoke of Mozambique’s remarkably small number of bookstores, and the challenges of translation—something that had a lot to do with her entry into the business.

Cairo’s Bakr reiterated his cogent comments from the Reykjavik International Literature Festival about challenges and trends in much of the Middle East—revealing the keen importance of public-facing book fairs in the Arab world where formal distribution channels are still developing.

Pathak’s understanding of the wealth of languages in the Indian market—let alone the customary low price points for books in that huge market—was coupled with his concern for piracy faced by many in the publishing industry, as well. And Hiroshi described some of the growth of the Japanese market, particularly in international settings. In some of the English-language markets, for example, Japanese literature is sometimes more readily accepted than that of other cultures.

Consumers and Concerns

A second panel with Publishing Perspectives at Thessaloniki International Book Fair features, from left, Anne Bergman; Haris Ioannides, Kristina Kramer, and Michela Pea. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

In a second session with Publishing Perspectives, speakers gathered by Chatzigeorgiou and her team included Michela Pea, currently based in Portugal; Anne Bergman of Brussels, with the Federation of European Publishers; Kristina Kramer of Germany’s Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, and Haris Ioannides of Cyprus.

In this round of the “Book Markets Around the World” series, the speakers were asked to look at European perspectives on challenges and gains in publishing. Pea—Italian by birth but a careerist who has lived and worked for English and American companies, and now is in Portugal—was able to assess differences in various markets’ attempts to attract talent to publishing jobs.

Ioannides had news of a very fast set of developments in the Cypriot arena—the most eastern end of Europe, as he reminded us—including the development not only of the new Limassol Book Fair but also of a publishers association.

Kramer deftly pointed out challenges seen in many markets but well documented in Germany: city centers so degraded in attractiveness since the pandemic, for example, that consumers are less engages in the footfall of a healthy high street. But this, she pointed out, has come at a time of rising sales from younger customers—see our report here—which is running ahead of the coming inauguration of the market’s KulturPass program for citizens in their late teens.

Image: Provided by the Federation of European Publishers at the Thessaloniki International Book Fair, 2023

And Bergman had several key data points that she and her colleagues at the federation have developed, including the remarkable jump in audiobook consumption between 2019 and 2022 seen in several Nordic countries including Finland at 247.3 percent and Denmark at 112.8 percent.

The gains weren’t limited to the Nordics, either, with Italy at 177.8 percent, but in Sweden—home, of course, to Storytel and other heavy hitters—the unit sales of digital books overtook those of print for the first time, in 2020.

One of the Friday (May 5) panels at Thessaloniki International Book Fair gets started in its discussion on the ‘Dialogue’ professional-program stage, a new element from the fair’s coordinator Nopi Chatzigeorgiou. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

More from Publishing Perspectives on Greece is here, more on guest of honor programs at publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is heremore on rights trading in the international book publishing industry is here, our Rights Roundup series is here, and more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs 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.