What is the future of publishing?
We interviewed Mr. Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Hope you’ll enjoy the interview.
Hiroki Kamata and Roberto V. Zicari. (Editors)
Q1. The traditional paper-based publishing industry is confronting tremendous challenges from the emerging e-book industry. Almost everything about publishing is now digital and thus affects every aspect of publishing, including production, distribution and marketing.
Do traditional book publishing business models have a future?
J.B. Digital products are now primarily perceived as an opportunity within the publishing industry. They will not replace the printed book, but rather complement and co-exist with it. There is no need to dread the innovations marked by this digital era if publishers make their content flexible and, along with their content, also their business. Cross-media applications are one way to revitalize the way we tell stories AND they also imply a big opportunity to revitalize the way we do business.
Q2. Copyright concept regulations are messy everywhere. We need a global consensus among the stakeholders or at least to find a way to make that happen.
What do you think of the problem and do you have any ideas?
J.B. As the range of tablet PCs and e-readers with mass appeal has grown, so too has the spectrum of available rights, which now includes digital rights and interactive rights relating to new forms of products, like enriched e-books with multimedia content. Along with that, the value chain is getting ever more varied and more complex. We can now readily talk of “value spaces”, moving from a two-dimensional concept to an exponential growth of possibilities. The copyright issue is becoming even more complicated by user-generated content and collaborative works.
On the one hand, it is clear that creativity needs freedom. Obtaining rights has to be technically fast and easy. On this front, I am watching approaches like the Copyright Clearance Centre’s “Rights Link” with interest. On the other hand, it is also clear that the author must retain full control over how his or her content is exploited. This implies the author’s right to consistently earn in each and every state of the value chain – or not. It should be the author’s free choice how and where and when he or she wants to benefit from his or her work – whether it’s in the form of money or image or even in the context of networking.
To ensure this, we need international solutions to copyright, since the Internet is making national boundaries irrelevant.
Q3. You run the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF). From your perspective, what do you consider the most important trends in the book publishing market in the coming years that will affect your business?
J.B. The Book Fair is changing every year and, in doing so, it reflects the changes affecting the industry. The pace of change is also increasing. The way we do business with content is changing radically. That’s why we plan to feature the buying and selling of content even more prominently in 2011. For the first time, we will devote an entire hall to it in the form of the expanded LitAg and the new StoryDrive Business Centre for sales professionals from the film, games and book industries. Together with the Rights Directors Meeting, the world’s largest gathering of rights professionals, we are creating places where questions can be turned into answers – and where new content emerges in the process.
At the same time, the book industry is one of the few creative industries that grappled with digitisation very early on – and very intensively. In the 1990s, there was a focus on “Frankfurt goes electronic” in Frankfurt with a multimedia hall. Since then, publishers have been awaiting the digital breakthrough, which has finally arrived now in the form of Kindle & co. At the same time, I’m observing a great deal of calm and confidence within the industry – and thus also at the Fair. That’s because digital products are now primarily perceived as an opportunity.
Q4. The content market is becoming more dynamic and global; national borders are disappearing and the market is being reorganised by language, culture, and regions. Is there any activity planned at the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) to meet these new realities?
J.B. Technology has always been the driving force behind the publishing industry. After all, everything began with the invention of the printing press. That’s why technology has always been an important component of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Halls 4.0 and 4.2, for instance, are traditionally the places where the service providers of the industry gather, from pre-press businesses to software and database providers. Of course, with digitisation the influence of new technologies is increasing. Our response to that is Frankfurt SPARKS, the digital initiative of the Frankfurt Book Fair. We launched this in 2010 because we believe technology means nothing without content. Stories, ideas, information and pictures: these are the raw materials fuelling not only the world of publishing, but also the ICT sector. Hardware suppliers and telecom companies alike depend on these raw materials. And the Book Fair is where they’re traded, for example, at the Frankfurt Hot Spots, our new exhibition format. There are six of these – the centrepieces of six different exhibition halls – where technology meets content in a really tangible way. In 2010, around 60 exhibitors made use of the Hot Spots. After that huge success, we’ll be repeating the concept again in 2011, focusing on new topics.
Q5. The Frankfurt Book Fair 2011 will take place from 12 to 16 October in Frankfurt.The Guest of Honour will be Iceland.
What can we expect from the 2011 edition?
J.B. The international publishing world is sitting on a wealth of material, stories, ideas, information and images. With this year’s Frankfurt SPARKS, we want to demonstrate how you can make the best use of the raw material that is content. It’s safe to assume that new business models will emerge for the first time in October that will clearly define the future of the industry. At this year’s StoryDrive Conference, we will once again bring together international experts from the creative industries, including film, games and publishing, in order to shape this future together.
We feel that international publishing is looking for direction and for knowledge that is straight to the point. The digital revolution is turning value chains into value spaces. This leads to an increase in possibilities – but also an increase in questions. We are meeting this demand by facilitating exchange among experts and peers through our Frankfurt Academy knowledge network. In 2011, we will combine a series of existing formats under the umbrella of the Frankfurt Academy brand, such as the International Rights Directors Meeting, which has been in existence for 25 years, or Tools of Change for Publishing (TOC) Frankfurt. But there will also be new formats offered, like a conference on metadata or the new Publishers Launch format.
And, of course, there will also be the Guest of Honour Iceland. The hunger for good stories runs deep in us as human beings. Hardly any other country provides more proof of this than Iceland. That’s because Icelanders live in their stories, whether it’s in their medieval sagas or in today’s multimedia arts scene. Each of the approximately 318,000 Icelanders purchases an average of eight books per year. Around 30 Icelandic authors are expected to be in Frankfurt, including Andri Snær Magnason, Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir, Hallgrímur Helgason, Jón Kalman Stefánsson, Kristín Steinsdóttir and Sjón, along with famous crime writers Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and this year’s winner of the Nordic literature prize Gyrðir Elíasson.