At Leipzig Book Fair: Börsenverein Will Launch #DemocracyVoteNow

In News by Porter Anderson

‘Defending democracy, promoting diversity, and strengthening education’ are the themes for the Börsenverein at the Leipzig Book Fair.

At the 2023 Leipzig Book Fair. Image: LBM, Jens Schlüter

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

German Publishers at Leipzig: ‘Choose Democracy Now’
The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Germany’s publishers and booksellers association, today (March 20) is stressing to the news media that the German book trade will keenly focus its emphasis at the 2024 Leipzig Book Fair on “Defending democracy, promoting diversity, and strengthening education” at the show this week.

Leipzig’s annual public-facing book fair is a large one, regularly drawing some 274,000 or more attendees and up to 55,000 trade visitors, who are mostly booksellers, authors, librarians, and teachers. Most of the show’s attendance comes from a radius of 50 to 100 kilometers, and there’s a certain amount of internationalism among exhibitors, who may represent as many as 40 markets.

Running Thursday through Sunday (March 21 to 24), the Leipzig show will be the launchpad for the German book industry’s launch of a new #DemocracyVoteNow initiative.

The association’s leadership, however, is mindful that in so political an age as this, their dynamic has to leverage the political energy of the moment.

Related article: ‘Germany’s Book Market: A ‘Mixed Performance in 2023.’ Image – Getty iStockphoto: Mahmoud Mahdi

“Against the background of increasing attacks on basic democratic values ​​such as human dignity, freedom, and tolerance,” the Börsenverein writes—”and in view of the European elections and three state elections this year—the organizers would like to send a strong signal from the spring fair to the book and media industry.

“At the trade fair and on social media, people are invited to campaign for a democratic and diverse society.”

According to today’s media messaging from Peter Kraus vom Cleff, the Börsenverein‘s general manager and CEO, there’s a mixed picture on the book market.

The industry ended last year with good sales results of +2.9 percent in the central sales channels, according to the Media Control research used by the Börsenverein for its data.

But fewer books were sold than in the previous year (-1.9 percent). This development has continued this year so far. According to Media Control, as of the end of last month, February, the book market is recording an increase in sales of 1.5 percent.

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

Peter Kraus vom Cleff

Kraus vom Cleff says, “The cost pressure for bookstores and publishers continues, and overall the economic situation is challenging.

“We very much welcome the fact that the federal government is continuing the KulturPass for 18-year-olds, even if only with half the budget.

“For the future, it’s imperative to provide sufficient funds and return to the original €200 euros (US$217) per person.

“We also urgently need structural funding for publishing, as is already anchored in the coalition agreement. Otherwise we’ll see publishers and therefore cultural diversity dying ever more quickly.”

As so many people are doing, Kraus vom Cleff is also focusing on issues including AI, writing in his notes to the press today, especially looking at how artificial intelligence can be used sensibly and what guardrails are needed for it, an important debate that the industry and society are currently only starting.

Related article: ‘Reading Skills in Germany: New Study Results Concern the Market.‘ Image Getty iStockphoto: Egoitz Bengoetxea Iguaran

“The answers to these questions,” he says, “are crucial for our democracy. The voice of the cultural and creative industries must be heard, for example by being included in the federal government’s planned ‘Future Council on AI.’

“Clear regulations are needed to protect consumers, prevent misuse, and ensure remuneration for authors. The European AI law, the AI ​​Act, which was passed in the European Parliament last week, is an important step in this direction.”

And once more, Kraus vom Cleff sounds the message that has persisted in much of the Börsenverein’s last two years’ concern about education and reading levels among schoolchildren in Germany, saying, “Publishers and bookstores are already making an important contribution here. 

“In order to create a lasting impact and stop the progressive deterioration of the educational situation in Germany, an overarching political strategy is needed.”

Programming Notes from the Börsenverein

At Leipzig Book Fair 2023. Image: LPM, Tom Schulze

Several events at Leipzig are being recommended today by the publishers, and we’re happy to pass them on to you in case you’ll be at the show this week. All times, of course, are CET. (For our readers who already are in Daylight Saving Time, the European Continent will make its adjustment to CEST on March 31.)

  • Reading, informing, voting: Strengthening democracy and parliamentarism
    Thursday, March 21, 3:15 p.m. | Open Society Forum
    With: Christiane Schenderlein, Anna Cavazzini, Amy Kirchhoff and Anne Rabe. Moderation: Stephan Detjen
  • Freedom, Democracy, Cultural Diversity: This is Europe
    Friday, March 22, 1:20 p.m. | Literaturbühne Glashalle
    With: Dorothee Bär, Terry Reintke, Barbara Gessler, Alexandra von Poschinger, Moderation: Vivian Perkovic
  • We Have the Choice
    Friday, March 22nd, 4:15 p.m. | Forum Open Society
    With: Jessy Wellmer, Thomas De Maizière. Moderation: Natascha Freundel
  • A Study Report: Fancy a BookHow Young People Find and Buy Books Today
    Thursday, March 21, 2 p.m. | CCL, room 4
  • Award Ceremony: | Alfred Kerr Prize for Literary Criticism
    Thursday, March 21, 2 p.m. | Forum The Independents
  • Career Day Books and Media for Young Talent
    Friday, March 22nd, all day | Specialist forum, Hall 5, D701

At Leipzig Book Fair 2023. Image: LBM, Jens Schlüter

More from Publishing Perspectives about international book fairs and similar events is here. More on Leipzig Book Fair is here, and more on the German market 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.