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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tidbits from the Frankfurt Book Fair

The mood, among German publishing houses, anyway, is upbeat. While lots of publishers feel dismal about economic prospects, most think that business will stay pretty much the same. The digital future zooms near, which led to a lot of discussion. While about 42% of exhibited material is traditional books, a whopping 30% is digital. What does the future hold? No one knows. Meantime, the rather confusing advice from the Germans is not to move too fast, but don't hang back, either.

According to mega-bestseller Paolo Coelho, the book is still king, but this is just a precious interval before www takes over. He chides the publishing world for not being innovative enough, and recommends using it to give away digital content for free. Copyright problems might raise their heads, but "we are facing a new era, so either we adapt or we die. However," he hastily added, "I did not come here to share solutions, but my own experience as an author."

On a personal note, I agree with him. Digital books are a great research tool -- IF they are searchable. For a relaxing read, I put the digital book away, and buy or borrow a "real" book. There is nothing like the feel of paper in your hands. I particularly like library books, because of the aura of those who have been before you, and left dogears, notes, and strange bookmarks that are often as interesting as the content.

But, for real innovation in the use of digital media, have a look at this! Talk about thinking outside the square! But I digress.

The naming of the Booker Prize winner should trigger more interest in the Fair, and books in general. One hopes so, anyway, for all shortlisted titles have recorded dismal sales. The total lifetime sale figure for all six, taken together, is 32,342 copies (via Nielsen Bookscan).

Perhaps they should give away digital copies free.

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