FakeFurt 2020: What have we learned?
Posted on 28/10/2020 in Blog
Late October. So here we are once again after a busy Gothenburg and Frankfurt Fair. Rapid 30-minute meetings with editors who looked slightly more ragged by the day, fizzy cava at 02.00 at ‘The Hof’, a hasty ink-blotted offer on a a5 college pad page dropped on your desk in the middle of a pitch to someone else, lukewarm coffee and tired feet. Or wait, what actually happened this year?
Well, it is safe to say that this year wasn’t really like previous fair seasons, for better and for worse. Instead we found ourselves in the middle of a historic moment: the digital Frankfurt Fair. The fair that has roots in the 15th century (before the printing press, no less) was this year rebranded to “FakeFurt 2020” by the industry’s nerdy wordsmiths. If you were wondering, they are quite abundant.
Unlike the chaotic situation in March, we had now all had time to learn how to use the funny backgrounds in Microsoft Teams, discover the quirkiness in that Google Meet works best in any other browser than Google Chrome, have the compulsory ethics discussion about Zoom, and were now experts. Instead of crammed, shiny white tables as far as the eye can see, we were invited into editors’ homes, offices and lives.
And what did we find out in our meetings? That this industry had it rough in March and April yes, but also that it is resilient, strong, optimistic, flexible and extremely kind-hearted. Whether it was the campaigns in France and Spain to save independent book shops, pushing publishing dates to 2021 to give debuts a fair shot at finding their audience, putting together a zoomlive interview in Israel in the middle of the second-wave lockdown, asking for an especially created uplifting letter from the author to readers in Taiwan or the happy response from an editor who despite just losing an auction that she’s glad that the book found a home in her language, this industry is doing everything it can to make sure it survives.
After so many years of everyone talking about the “death of the book”, I think it might leave us shocked and deeply humbled to see that in fact, despite the worst pandemic in a century, state-wide lockdowns and an economic backlash, the book is stronger than ever. Many European editors told us that after the tough struggle in March through May, they saw record sales in June, July and August. With less actual travelling allowed, it seems that we, the readers, are all once again longing to travel within the confines of a hardback: regardless whether it’s to imaginary fantasy lands, into the depths of the mind of someone different than ourselves or a journey of self-discovery, the book is here to stay.