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Frankfurt Book Fair: “The book industry has passed the Covid stress test but needs to preserve fair framework conditions”

Opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2021 / Books are firmly anchored in society / Stable turnover during the pandemic / Freedom of contract conditions for eBook lending in libraries must be preserved
Erstellt am 19.10.2021

The book industry is optimistic and bursting with enthusiasm at the opening of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair: "The pandemic has been one of the biggest stress tests in history and we have passed it with flying colours. Publishers, bookstores and book logistic companies have worked hard to stay close to their clients and ensure that books reached people despite these challenging times", said Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, Chairwoman of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers & Booksellers Association), today at the press conference to mark the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The crisis has shown how firmly the book is anchored in society. Schmidt-Friderichs: "Social distancing did not mean distancing from books. People used the time at home to read more often. Books can fulfil important needs in challenging times: They provide answers to pressing questions, giving substantiated information in a clear and comprehensive format. A book can broaden our view, open up new worlds and show us other ways of living. It can offer food for thought, give courage and hope."

Thus, the industry was able to conclude the year 2020 with stable revenues. A look at 2021 also gives cause for optimism: across all distribution channels, revenues on the book market had caught up with the pre-Covid level by the end of week 40 and are 0.7 per cent above the revenues of the comparable period in 2019. This means that the chances of a positive annual result are high.

After one and a half challenging years, there are signs everywhere of a fresh start. The book industry can support society on this path and help solve important questions: "Will we succeed in effectively combating man-made climate change? How can we revitalise our inner cities? What solutions can we find in the face of worrying political developments and restrictions on freedom of expression around us? Can we achieve more equality for people regardless of their skin colour, their gender, their sexual orientation, their origin? All these questions are also being addressed in books," says Schmidt-Friderichs.

“Libraries cannot become tax-funded free eBook platforms”

A decisive question for the future of the book industry is the development of copyright. This has been increasingly restricted in recent years. Currently, the book industry is facing the prospect of a drastic deterioration in the framework conditions for eBook lending. The Bundesrat (Federal Council) has demanded that in future, publishers must make all eBooks available to libraries for lending from the day of publication. There is great concern that the future Federal Government will adopt this proposal. Until now, publishers and authors have had the freedom to make a few books available for free lending only after a certain time frame, in order to secure the crucial revenue from sales within the first twelve months. If readers can already access the eBook library version free of charge from the moment a book is launched on the market, publishers and authors lose this commercial revenue opportunity. While libraries already account for almost half of eBook consumption, publishers already make only 6 per cent of their eBook revenues from this. 

Schmidt-Friderichs continued: "We are committed to preserving the freedom of contract conditions for eBook lending in libraries. Authors and publishers, i.e., those who earn their living from this, must also be able to do so in the future. It is not acceptable for the state to turn libraries into free eBook platforms financed by taxes. I therefore emphatically support the appeal of the 'Fair Reading' initiative, in which authors, publishers and bookstores have joined forces on this issue. Their aim is to show that legal regulations such as a compulsory licence for eBook lending in libraries are endangering the book market and destroying important sources of income for authors, publishers and the book trade".

Press Material on eBook Lending

Facts and figures on eBook lending in libraries can be found here: 

Our Programme Highlights

DEMONSTRATION | Freedom of Expression for Belarus! #FreeBelarus
Saturday, 23.10., 14:00 | Goetheplatz Frankfurt
With the author Sasha Filipenko, Alexandra Logovina from the office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, author Nina George, author and President of PEN centre Germany Regula Venske as well as Alexander Skipis, Managing Director of the Börsenverein. 

DISCUSSION | Writing and Cancel Culture – Is artistic freedom at risk?
Thursday, 21.10., 11:00 | ARD Book Fair Stage, Festhalle
With the author Jagoda Marinić, writer Matthias Politycki and Publisher Antje Kunstmann. Host: Bascha Mika.

PRESS CONFERENCE | Interview with Peace Prize Winner Tsitsi Dangarembga
Friday, 22.10., 10:00 | Hall 4.C, Mezzanine level, rooms Alliance and Entente, please register online 

COMPETITION AWARD | CONTENTshift Accelerator 2021 – Who will be the “Content Startup of The Year”?
Thursday, 21.10., 10:00 | Livestream



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