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Frankfurt Book Fair Wrap Up 2019

Without further ado, even though the book fair was about a month ago, I’m bringing you my Frankfurt Book Fair Wrap Up. I am always impressed by the size of the Frankfurt Book Fair and this year’s panels seemed to be more about climate change and freedom of speech in literature and publishing. Is this surprising to anyone?

Panel Insights – Climate Change

So I’m going to talk about some insights and points I particularly liked in the panels I attended. This year I didn’t take enough photos or screenshots, so I’m apologizing in advance. But as I said earlier there was a lot of discussion about publishing and climate change. Physical books clearly require paper, materials, and transportation to printing and to your home. So in an age where we are trying to discuss the future of our planet and sustainability, it’s no surprise that publishing has been undergoing the same discussions.

In these panels there is always a split between books themselves which deal with the topic at hand, and then overarching larger themes – such as what publishing can do to be more green. Living in another country where recycling and sustainability seem to mean more, it’s an interesting idea to wonder where people learn this from. Can we bridge the gap with children’s books about recycling and the effects of plastic? Writers who expose the effects of climate change and how we are effecting our planet. How can we merge climate change activism and literature, art and science?

Something I find interesting is that in many bookstores I’ve encountered in Europe, they shrink wrap hardcover books to protect dust jackets. I saw that a lot in the UK when I was visiting bookstores, but it was brought up today as a way that we can discuss making the process of publishing more sustainable. How can we put pressure on the suppliers to be more green?

Another interesting trend was the idea of printing on demand. There are print runs and normally books are printed in anticipation of sales. It’s actually way more complicated, but that’s a very simple version. Print on demand follows the idea that you would only print books once you had a sale. This would cut back on over-printing books especially ones that don’t sell.

Panel Insights – Women in Literature

I also, predictably so, visited many panels about women in literature in other parts of the world. How do we write in a language that isn’t taught in our schools? What are the repercussions and societal stigma of each of these choices? In many other countries, there are colonial echoes to our choices of language. And these decisions become a statement.

At the same time, there are questions of censorship. How can we discuss what we want well enough so that people who are looking find what we mean, while also being able to be published? An author from Hong Kong attended and she talked about how some people have asked her how she can write under those conditions. She responds asking, how could she not write about these conditions?

On the publishing level, how do we make sure women get ahead in the publishing industry. Often we can see women doing the work, but these larger houses being run by men and making these larger decisions higher up in the chain. What does it mean to strategically network together was women?

Panel Insights – Freedom of Speech

In a world where there are more and more right wing publishers (and even at the book fair), where is the line of freedom of speech? In this panel there were two panelists and they discussed how you have meaningful discussions with or about these publications. If it’s an exchange of ideas and space is denied, what does that say about the power of the ideas? Do people really want freedom of speech or the ability to speak without contradiction or discussion?

A Panel About Publishing in Africa

Publishing models do not work the same all over the world. Whether it’s a question of publishing languages or even distribution, the same system cannot be one-size-fit-all. Some of the publishers spoke about printing on demand, but also what to do when bookstores are not widespread. What are the lines between profitability versus the priority of the message you want to send? How do you balance making a profit, but also making sure that reading is more available to people? And furthermore, how do you create a reading culture – where reading is considered essential to our lives?

You then need to get people to invest in the infrastructure to sell and distribute books. Since traditionally academic publishing was stronger, the trade publishing industry still has to grow. A culture of buying has to be establishing alongside reading. It’s not only about reading, but then the desire to own what you are reading, to place importance in that.

Discussion

Has climate change effected how you view or consume books?


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2 thoughts on “Frankfurt Book Fair Wrap Up 2019

  1. Lots to think about here! The environmental impact of physical books is something I haven’t heard much about, which seems surprising given how immersed I am in the book world. It’s one thing for me not to own a car, eat less meat, or repair instead of trash, but to not enjoy physical books hits a little differently…But that’s not really what you wrote about here anyway, thankfully, lol. I imagine there are other ways to make the publishing process more sustainable, like how you mention about eliminating shrinkwrap.

    1. Yeah I’ve been thinking more and more, like do I need this physical one and can I find it in a store or something? I don’t know it’s something I didn’t really think about beforehand. I still love physical books and still want more, but now I’m like trying to be more conscious about what I buy and also do with books you know?

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