Multimedia creates the buzz at world's biggest book fair

5th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

The world's biggest book fair opened Tuesday, with an increased number of exhibitors expected to focus on the digital and multimedia sectors that are rapidly transforming the industry.

The fair expects 7,533 exhibitors from 111 countries for its 62nd edition, a three-percent increase on the previous year, the exhibition's director Juergen Boos told reporters.

"Well-told stories are the engine of the book fair and new technologies ensure one thing above all: the demand for content is increasing," he said.

"The book is not dead but it is true that our industry is undergoing profound change," he added.

Gottfried Honnefelder, president of the German publishers and booksellers association which organises the fair, said only about one percent of the 9.6-billion-euro German book market was currently made up by digital offerings.

However, he said he could see the market rising to 10 percent in the near future.

To highlight the growing importance of the digital and multimedia sectors, the fair will host a separate section -- "Frankfurt Hot Spots" -- devoted to the new technologies taking the book world by storm.

And British author Ken Follett is expected to present a multimedia version of his bestseller "The Pillars Of The Earth" at the fair.

As ever, this year's fair will be sprinkled with a galaxy of star names plugging their offerings. US star author Jonathan Franzen will read from his new novel "Freedom" that has wowed reviewers around the world.

Works by stars from the non-literary world are also expected in Frankfurt, including singer David Bowie, whose book "Object" features 100 items from the musician's personal life.

This year's guest of honour is Argentina, likely to be less controversial than China, which caused a flap over freedom of speech at last year's book fair.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle officially opened the fair at a gala ceremony later Tuesday.

Westerwelle himself weighed into the digital debate, saying it was too early to declare the death of the book.

"I dare to predict that the electronic book will not replace the printed book but complement it. The book will outlive all those people who today want to dig its grave," the minister said.

For her part, Kirchner, describing herself as "an avid reader of books", said: "as long as the word exists as the most important element to express our words and feelings and perceptions, books ... will continue to survive."

"This will never end."

However, she acknowledged: "I prefer printed books because I enjoy the feeling of opening up a new book and starting to read it."

The fair is aimed at professional visitors from Wednesday to Friday before the doors are thrown open to the public at the weekend. It closes on Sunday.

© 2010 AFP

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