The Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) has been a fixed star in Karger’s calendar for a long time. Indeed, this year marks 60 years of participation for us. In 1963 , when we first joined the fair as an exhibitor, the worlds of scientific publishing and health sciences were quite different compared to today. The reasons for a scientific publisher to take part in this fair have also evolved over time, such as sales, placing orders, licensing and translation agreements, presenting new publications, cultural exchange, discussing new ideas, as well as maintaining contact with partners and peers. Throughout all the changes, the FBF has always provided a glimpse into the scientific publishing microcosm and the changing landscape of this industry.
When we look back at old pictures of previous FBFs, the evolution is most visible in the appearance of our booth – but of course there is so much more. Discover how some of our colleagues, who have been longtime participants of FBF, see the developments and what memories they have of this important book fair.
Chris, what does the Frankfurt Book Fair mean to you, and why is it still significant for scientific publishers?
Christian Box, Head of Academic & Research Markets, has been visiting the FBF in various functions since 2012.
“It’s easy to take the Frankfurt Book Fair for granted and underestimate its significance to our industry. The last two years aside, the book fair typically takes place the same week every year and, like most people who attend annually, I have a clear picture in my mind beforehand of who’s going to be there and where they will be in hall 4.2. Interestingly, it’s the regularity of the event that makes it so easy to see the newcomers and the changes, and as a kind of microcosm of the industry, one or two laps of the hall will give you a good feel for what and who is new.”
Joachim, what is your perception of the changes over the time you have attended the Frankfurt Book Fair?
Joachim Flickinger, Head of Healthcare Markets, has been visiting the FBF in various functions since 2006.
“I have been attending the FBF for 16 years in different roles with different employers. For me, the fair has always been an indicator of the development of the sector. During the first decade of the 2000s, the large number of mergers and acquisitions in the industry became apparent in the booths of those companies getting bigger and bigger, with some spanning across multiple aisles today. A regular visitor to the FBF could clearly notice the globalization of the sector. Right around that time in which the above-mentioned mergers were over, one could witness more and more publishers, agents, and other service providers, often from India and China, building their presence at the fair. And lately, digitalization also became evident: not only did publishers and other exhibitors implement less print and more digital features on their stands, but the number of service providers from the IT sector in publishing has been growing notably over the last 10 years. All in all, I would say the FBF has changed from an event that was used to negotiate and sell (business to business) to become an environment to display and discuss new ideas and technologies.”
Gabriella , what is your memory of the first time you attended the FBF?
Gabriella Karger, Chairwoman of the Board and publisher, has been visiting the FBF in various functions since the 80s.
“My first memory of the book fair dates back to the early 1980s, when – as a teenager – I entered the fabled halls for the first time on a weekday. Fabled because I heard about the fair every year from my father, Thomas Karger, about its spaciousness and its bustle, which I could see for myself at the time, though not only in the hall of trade publishers. And Karger realized its long-standing wish for a larger stand to display over 100 book titles, sample issues of all our magazines, and our advertising materials. And to hold discussions at four to five tables. A lot has changed since then – not only that we have almost no paper at the booth anymore. But the function of the trade show, meeting with important customers, competitors, and partners, has remained. And since I have been attending this important event for the publishing industry on business, there has never been any time left to look around the other halls… ”
Gregor, how have you perceived the FBF changing during the global COVID-19 pandemic?
Gregor Bangert, Lead, Regional Office Central Europe, has been visiting the FBF in various functions since 1992.
“The Book Fair stands for meetings and exchanges in the Frankfurt exhibition halls with customers and colleagues from all over the world. The Corona virus forced us into the digital space in 2020. We quickly reached the current limits of the virtual world. Instead of enjoying lively exchanges, we met in webinars that reminded me of elementary school lessons. Each webinar ended with the hopeful incantation “next year in Frankfurt.” In 2021, we sat protected by masks at a makeshift table, a publisher’s poster on a pop-up wall behind us and the plexiglas screen in front of us, behind which very few people wanted to talk. Fortunately, we were able to give webinars “live from the exhibition halls.” Now, with two years of pandemic experience and thanks to a science we are privileged to support at Karger, it will hopefully again be the book fair of lively encounters, where people discuss, promote, and gossip.”
We are curious about further changes. What are your experiences? Let us know in the comments.