Every year Frankfurt, Germany hosts the largest international book fair (Buch Messe) in the world. Last week, I took the train down to Frankfurt to see what all the excitement is about.
In the picture above, taken by Sarah Johnson, my gracious host and guide, I’m in the Boyds Mills Press booth, where Slowpoke was displayed (way down in the corner to my left). Yeah, my expression is strange. Just to my right the BMP foreign rights rep was having a meeting, so I guess I was feeling a little silly posing for a shot right beside them.
This book fair is all business. Whereas at librarian and teacher conferences the booth folk are very chatty, here they are all booked from morning til night with business meetings. There are few authors or educator types or average joe book customers, and the books aren’t sold individually. The idea is to show them to foreign publishers who might want to buy the rights and re-publish in another country/ language. Like this:
The hall for German publishers is a little different, with readings and cookbook demos and tv interviews going on all day. It had by far the most traffic of all the halls. Interestingly, the BMP booth was located in this hall, not with all the other American and British publishers in another hall.
American friends who had been before all told me to wear walking shoes. Now that I live in Germany, all my shoes are walking shoes. It was good advice, though. My shoes held up fine, but I was definitely sore from walking for hours and hours.
It was fascinating to see the books being written and published in countries all across the world. Even though I’m living overseas, I often still forget that the U.S. is just one market, just one place people make and read books, and English is just one language of many. The picture book artwork really stood out to me—-so many fresh and fabulous images.
Some of my favorite covers:
Those top two covers are both from Kalandraka, a Spanish language children’s publisher that produces gorgeous books. The third book is from Indian publisher Tara Books. They sell handmade, hand-printed versions of their books as well as “regular” ones. More info about Tara books at this blog post. The fourth cover above is from Swedish publisher Raben & Sjogren.
Below is a display of Steig Larrson’s book covers. The Swedish author’s trilogy has been translated and read all over the world, and each country has its own cover art. I’m currently reading book the second book in the trilogy, with the trade paperback British cover (which I have to say is not my favorite—the cover, that is—the book is awesome).
There were a lot of digital tools around at the fair. I find the whole digital publishing front intriguing, but I was struck by the overwhelming beauty of the actual books in contrast. Especially picture books. A screen just can’t compete with paper. I guess I’m a paper-lover, always have been.
Speaking of paper-loving, I also really enjoyed the booths full of German art books. I’m talking about hand-printed, limited edition books from independent presses. The ultimate rebellion against the digital age. Made me want to start cranking out my own again.