Frankfurt Book Fair 2011, Part 1

The Frankfurt Book Fair 2011 took place October 12-16 and was more than usually full of events – conferences, workshops, forums, presentations, talks, and of course exhibition stands. Approximately 3200 events in five days, 7384 exhibitors from 106 countries… that isn’t something a single person can reasonably follow in any sense of the word. And I wasn’t even there for the full five days: so my impressions are just that, impressions from a very partial sample of this complex world. (If you want to know more, you can browse the Fair’s site, in English, in German, or, the site of the international online publishing newsletter; and you can still download also a free app for iPhone and Android with all the information about the Fair.)

Wandering around the aisles of the Halls, you can only feel that something is changing: e-books are not easy to show up, as the traditional printed books are, so you can see the usual long lines of paper covers, and the electronic books are more a topic of conversation than an actual object to be seen and appreciated. Something should change in the future, unless the all-digital turn will completely wipe out this kind of events. E-books of course are there, and you can find them; but for now they are less visible than the conventional books, that’s all.

Overview from outside

One of the aspects that struck me is linked to the organization: the growing number of specialized «islands», stands regrouping based on the subject area, in particular in the Halls of the German publishers: Tourism, Comics, Children Books, and this year also a Music island and an Audio books island, among the others. It seems to simplify your task, if you are specifically interested in one of this areas, but of course in these groups you can find only the specialized publishers (Schott, for example), and if you are not a little more adventurous, there is a clear risk of missing something, among the not-so-specialized publishers. And then, that’s true only of the German Halls (that are, anyway, a substantial fraction of the whole), and not of the other Halls, still arranged mostly by country. Anyway, this is an interesting aspect, that seems to point towards a growing specialization (or at least, to a growing awareness of it).

Cover of book on Bach hörenThe Music island wasn’t particularly attracting, for me at least: many scores, learning handbooks of any level and for any musical genre – from primary school to college level, from classical to pop, rock, folk, jazz. That’s not my field of expertise, so I can tell you only that the offer is really very rich, but I can tell nothing about the actual quality of those products.

In general, however, many are of course the new publications you can see in the stands: but the feeling is that the efforts are now mostly focused on fiction (and in particular on «category fiction» –  mistery or thrillers, historical novels, fantasy and so on) and general traee books; essays seem to be a shrinking fraction of the whole production – or maybe they are more quickly migrating to other formats. I have no hard data on which to ground a solid statement, but the feeling was very clear.

Cover of the book JohannespassionNot many titles struck me as interesting or really new. I will just mention a German publisher, Reclam, based in Stuttgart (, which publishes many low-price, small trim size books (most of them, traditionally with a simple, yellow cover – but that is changing, too). Reclam just published two «introductions to listening», dedicated to J. S. Bach in general and to his Johannes Passion: the authors are ichael Wersin (Bach hören, 176 pages), and Meinrad Walter (Johann Sebastian Bach. Johannespassion, 280 pages, with an interesting subtitle: «Eine musikalisch-theologische Einführung», a musical-theological introduction). Just published also a collection of Texts to musical Aesthetics (Texte zur Musikästhetik, edited by E. Böhm and F. von Ammon, 360 pages), spanning 2000 years, from Plato to Pierre Boulez.

Worth mentioning also, although in another field, a book published by a Swiss publisher, Christoph Merian Verlag ( : Kultur digital. Begriffe, Hintergründe, Beispiele, edited by Hedy Graber, Dominik Landwehr, Veronika Sellier (for Migros-Kulturprozent), peter Haber and Claudia Rosiny, with essays by Aleida Assmann, Peter Haber, Knut Hickethier, Verena Kuni, Georg Christoph Tholen and others (more info at in German).


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply