Willkommen zum Buchmesse

October 4, 2006

Today´s Guardian ran a large picture on page six of mass-market paperbacks being laid out in Frankfurt, under the headline ´Cover Story´and bearing the strapline:

The 380,000 books displayed on stands at Frankfurt Book Fair has helped offset fears about the viability of print in the digital age.

Wishful thinking. I’m in Frankfurt this week too, for what is by far the largest and most prestigious gathering of the publishing world, and no one seems to be taking the future seriously. The facilities provided pay ample testament to this, and would shock those used to attending more modern get-togethers. Wi-fi access is conspicuous by its absence, the few computers visible being used largely for slide presentations or demos of proprietary content management systems. More on this soon.

As to public internet access, the few ´Net-c@fe´s provided consist of stand-up booths running starlingly intransigent versions of IE5 which are inadequent for running the most common webmail apps, with any kind of dynamic content blocked by uncomprehending software. In international hall 8.0, home to all the visiting English-speaking publishers, there are ten booths hidden up a flight of stairs next to the toilets. In all, Frankfurt provides perhaps 50 such points for over 200,000 visitors and 7,000 exhibitors.

Welcome to the book world.

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