In this age of digitalization, declining newspaper circulation and a struggling print business, it is amazing that publishers, booksellers and book-lovers still gather to celebrate reading. But they are heading to Frankfurt this week to attend the world’s largest book fair.
The fair has always been a place where writers, literary agents and publishers come to show off their skills, bid for new work and sign contracts. In many ways it still is, but it is also fast becoming a place where the industry gathers to lament its decline.
It seemed bleakly appropriate that the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, chose the opening day of the fair to announce the launch of a flatrate-book-app in Germany, where customers pay a monthly subscription to then “borrow” from its electronic library of 650,000 books, of which 40,000 are in German. The new Amazon app – the literary equivalent of Netflix or Spotify – is giving customers access for €9.99 per month. The service includes best-selling authors such as Hera Lind and Nele Neuhaus.
In many ways the Frankfurt Book Fair, which opens to the public on Saturday and Sunday, is more of an international than a German event. Around 65 percent of the 7,000 exhibitors are foreigners.