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Frankfurt Book Fair Study Shows Digitization Heads Industry’s Top Challenge

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October 11 – October 15, 2007 Edition

Frankfurt Book Fair Study
Shows Digitization Heads
Industry's Top Challenge

FRANKFURT, GERMANY/10/8/07–The organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest fair for the book and media industry, have conducted a major survey of book industry professionals, asking respondents to identify the challenges and threats facing the industry, and to predict emerging trends and areas of growth. Feedback from international publishers and retailers identified digitization as the overriding priority and the single most important challenge facing the industry. Competition from other media and sources of entertainment was named as the biggest threat in an industry where the number of books published continues to increase each year. Asked what the industry will look like in 50 years’ time, only 11 per cent thought the printed book will be obsolete but almost a quarter (23 per cent) predicted the High Street bookseller would no longer exist. And 29 per cent think that China will dominate the industry in the next decade.

“I am delighted to see that the issues which we have picked up on as key topics for the Frankfurt Book Fair this year have been borne out as those which are affecting the industry internationally”, says Juergen Boos, Director of the Frankfurt Book Fair. “Once a year at Frankfurt, thousands of media and publishing professionals come together in a unique opportunity for business and cross-fertilization of ideas. Our program of seminars on both digitization and education should help the industry steer itself successfully through the challenges ahead.”

Survey’s reach extended across the globe

Publishers, retailers, agents and librarians from all over the world were surveyed by the Frankfurt Book Fair via its electronic newsletter. Over 1,300 responded from 86 countries. Respondents were predominantly European (85 per cent), with a large slice from North America (9 per cent) and with all the other continents represented roughly equally.

The survey’s reach extended across the globe: from Afghanistan to Vietnam, reflecting the make up of those exhibiting at and visiting the fair. Many were of a senior level, with 15 per cent at CEO level and 30 per cent at Director or senior management level. They were representative of the book trade as a whole, with professions ranging from editorial (20 per cent), marketing and PR (13 per cent), rights management (10 per cent), sales (9 per cent), booksellers (8 per cent), literary agents (5 per cent), librarians (4 per cent) and scouts (1 per cent).

Further results:

Challenges facing the industry

Over half (53 per cent) identified digitization as the biggest challenge facing the industry, reflecting one of the key themes of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Other challenges cited were increasing globalization (24 per cent), user-generated content (22 per cent) and the ongoing battle over territorial rights (15 per cent). Concerns about digitization were strongest in Anglophone countries, with 71 per cent of North Americans, 77 per cent of Australasians and 68 per cent of UK respondents marking this challenge as the most important.

The top four threats to the industry

Asked what is the biggest threat to the publishing industry today, respondents said:

1. competition from other media and sources of entertainment (50 per cent)

2. over-publishing (31 per cent)

3. the proliferation of piracy (23 per cent)

4. illiteracy levels in both western Europe and the developing world (17 per cent)

The publishing industry of the future

Looking to the future, respondents were asked whether some of the familiar components of today’s publishing industry would still be around in fifty years’ time. The majority did not predict that there would be any major catastrophic change. However,

only 4 per cent thought that the publisher would be obsolete. slightly more (11 per cent) thought that the printed book would be obsolete, as opposed to the electronic reader (10.5 per cent). the only death knell that was sounded was that of the High Street bookseller. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents predicted that in fifty years’ time the High Street bookseller would no longer exist.

Which markets will dominate the industry in the next decade?

36 per cent of the publishing industry said Europe would dominate. 32 per cent said North America. 29 per cent saw China as the future dominating market.

Who’s really in charge?

Who is actually steering the book industry today, making the decisions that make publishing successful and generate the bestsellers?

37 per cent felt that publishers were still key to the success of the industry Marketing professionals, at 31 per cent, were not far behind. 22 per cent see the consumer as leading the demand for books. Only 8 per cent felt that authors drive the industry.

Key areas of growth

Finally, the industry was asked where the major areas of growth are for the industry in the coming years.

44 per cent of respondents identified the use of e-books 41 per cent identified audiobooks, many of which are now available as downloads As the world becomes increasingly globalized, 27 per cent of respondents saw books in translation (much of the business of the Frankfurt Book Fair) as a growth area. 27 per cent identified educational publishing

Full results and statistics are available online at Survey

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the biggest book fair in the world – with more than 7,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries. It also organizes the participation of German publishers at more than 25 international book fairs and is co-founder of the Cape Town Book Fair in South Africa. It maintains the most visited website worldwide for the publishing industry. The Frankfurt Book Fair is a subsidiary of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association.