BERLIN: A rush of publishing start-ups and ever new ways to lure readers in an industry with Amazon breathing down its neck will be a central theme at the world’s biggest book fair, opening in Germany on Wednesday.
Faced with competition from the online giant, publishers face an “imperative to be big,” organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair say, pointing to this year’s merger to create Penguin Random House.
But the flipside is that start-ups are springing up as continental Europe now follows in the footsteps of Britain and the US, with all eyes on the newcomers shaping the future and hunting for a viable business model.
“The dividing line is no longer between old and new, print and e-books, analogue and digital,” the fair’s director Juergen Boos said.
“Instead it runs between those who have a passion for content and who want to provide access to it, and those who don’t really care what they’re selling.”
In Germany, the pioneering spirit is seen in innovations such as Tolino, an e-reader produced by bookshop chains and Deutsche Telekom, and Flipintu, an online reader community sharing tips and recommendations, hoping to do for books what Spotify did for music.
Katja Boehne, the fair’s spokeswoman, said the mushrooming of start-ups in digital publishing mirrored the switch to smartphones in mobile communications.
From initially offering books in digital format, the range of services around books and content now encompasses self-publishing, 3D educational products with interactive graphics, platforms for interactive reading and new ways of Internet shopping, she said.
More than 7,000 exhibitors will descend on the western German city, which annually hosts the five-day showcase of international publishing and its crossover into film, video games and merchandising.
Brazil’s literature, arts and culture will take pride of place, represented by around 90 writers, and backed by a 900,000-euro ($1.2-million) government program for 2011-13 for the translation of Brazilian works.