Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Stone Bridge Press Thrives at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Stone Bridge Press editor and publisher Peter Goodman reports back on the overall Frankfurt Book Fair experience:

My first Frankfurt Book Fair in 26 years was a stimulating and exhausting experience. So many books, so little time! Being in the midst of publishers of every size and from every country forces one to wonder: Where do we fit in? Does the world need more books? The need to communicate seems biologically driven, and the Book Fair thus represents a physical expression of our most basic needs. One gets the sense almost that we would still be making books even if there were no readers for them (some folks believe we are already there!).

But according to some fairgoers, this year had lower attendance and less energy, an indication that Frankfurt is in decline, and with it the book publishing industry. E-media are to blame, of course. With digitalization of books we can save trees, petroleum, labor.

I've been hearing this gloomy prognosis for years, and I don't think we're any closer to it now. Electronic media are just another format to invigorate content. Big encyclopedias and dictionaries and travel guides may indeed migrate to digital form, but books will always be the best way to create self-contained worlds of imagination, opinion, and personal expression. In fact, next to the bland stew of infinitely malleable and assemblable digital content, books are almost a radical innovation: finite, focused, personal. I look forward to making more of them.

I've uploaded some photos from the Frankfurt trip. You can judge the size of Hall 8, for English-language publishers. There were 3 (or more?) other halls of this size devoted to other languages, children's publishing, comics, etc. No way to see it all. Somewhere (row N, stand 935 to be exact) the Stone Bridge Press booth had its home. There was a constant hum of traffic. We answered lots of questions and gave out information. And we met with some of our key publishing partners, such as Angela Reynolds (our agent in Barcelona) and (in a surprise visit) Julie Schaper of Consortium. There was also much serendipity, which may or may not turn into new SBP projects down the road.

And in the huh? category was a full-size Japanese torii arch in the middle of nowhere, glimpsed from the access corridor that leads from the parking lot to Hall 8. Some Friendship Committee is responsible no doubt. There is always a shrine building somewhere near the arch, which I guess makes Hall 8 the logical choice, books being made of 'kami' and . . . oh forget it. Dumb joke.