71st Frankfurter Buchmesse begins in times of fundamental change

By 16 Oct 2019

The 71st Frankfurter Buchmesse, which begins on 16 October and is on until 20 October 2019, takes place against the background of global political and social upheaval. Concern about the world’s situation given the threat of an imminent climate catastrophe, and in view of the growing power of antidemocratic forces, has produced a new generation of activists. Their ranks include authors whose novels, nonfiction, biographies and poetry are inspiring and galvanising people worldwide. At the same time, our data-driven digital age has acquired new dimensions: the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence and the trailblasing progress being made in all areas of research are harbingers of disruptive developments that herald a new chapter in human history.

As the largest international meeting point for an industry defined by content, ideas and stories, Frankfurter Buchmesse addresses these developments.

At the opening press conference held on 15 October, Frankfurter Buchmesse’s director Juergen Boos called on the sector to maintain its traditional role in a time of radical transformation. “The book and media industry has a responsibility to analyse, evaluate and critically question the paradigm shifts which are defining the 21st century,” he said. “The international publishing industry represents a diversity of perspectives and opinions — a diversity that must be protected. We need authors who call out injustices, offer resistance and take risks as a result. And we need publishers who engage with this content and find appropriate formats for it — publishers committed to quality, accuracy and credibility.”

Heinrich Riethmüller, president of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, said: “The industry is aware of its important social responsibility. It wants to launch and shape debates about the pressing issues of our time, including globalisation and digitalisation, protecting the environment and climate, migration, and developing our democracies. In doing so, publishers and booksellers are holding their own in the increasingly competitive media landscape. They are successfully creating new possibilities for bringing readers and books together.”

Guest speaker Francis Gurry, director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), addressed the challenges faced by the intellectual property system in the context of the publishing industry. The topic is crucial for a publishing industry financed by copyrights, he said. In his remarks, Gurry outlined new business models compatible with a data-driven digital economy.

A special guest put in a surprise appearance at the Frankfurter Buchmesse opening press conference: Olga Tokarczuk, recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature, who spoke about the political responsibility that authors have. In her novels, the Polish author addresses the after-effects of European and Jewish history, a topic that has proven controversial in her native country. A former contributor at the left-wing journal Krytyka Polityczna, the trained psychologist is also politically active.

With CREATE YOUR REVOLUTION, Frankfurter Buchmesse is putting a spotlight on culture by providing a platform for people who are responding to today’s challenges with creative solutions and revolutionary ideas. As the backbone of society, culture provides guidance and a sense of belonging; it creates the framework for intercultural exchange, thereby shaping a future that is vibrant and hopeful. CREATE YOUR REVOLUTION is the result of a partnership between the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, the United Nations, THE ARTS+/B3, ARTE and Spreadshop. Participants in the initiative include numerous activists, artists and others, such as Luisa Neubauer, Igor Levit and Ai Weiwei. For more information: www.cyr.world

A total of 7,450 exhibitors from 104 countries are expected to attend Frankfurter Buchmesse 2019.

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