Frankfurt Book Fair 2014 Highlights

Some highlights from the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014, 8th – 12th October

The following four short pieces seek to capture the essence of some key events at this year’s FBF.

Where should publishers invest their money in today’s publishing climate?

On the first day of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014, a panel of publishers was asked where they would put their money if they had $10m to invest.  Michael Bhaskar, Digital Publishing Director for Profile, said he would divide his money between innovative online players and indie game developers, self-publishing ventures and subscription ventures.  Georgina Atwell of said that in today’s digital world discovery, marketing and PR were the most important investment targets.  Richard Charkin, Executive Director at Bloomsbury UK, said that publishers needed to turn their attention to the people ‘at the front of the value chain, i.e., authors.  He also attacked the continuing defence by some publishers of territoriality.  “There was a time in English language publishing when the Atlantic Ocean was very wide and you needed separate publishers to do things across the Atlantic.  That is not the case any more.” 

“You have to try things”

Talking about the revolution that has happened in publishing over the past few years in general and HarperCollins’ recent acquisition of the digitally-innovative Harlequin Publishing Group in particular, Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins, said “The book publishing industry I think has done a very good job, and I think analysts are just starting to realise that now that collectively we have transitioned well from a primarily print business to what is now both print and digital. We’re now getting the exposure as a result of this split. Often I think they just lump publishers into other media segments and think, oh, digital is all bad. And it’s not all bad, it’s actually quite good. So the split has been a very good thing for HarperCollins. The fact that we were able to buy Harlequin and expand our international reach is a testament to the fact that [analysts] are very confident in the [publishing] business and where it can go.”  This is PODW’s philosophy in a nutshell!

Open Access: the debate continues at Frankfurt

A well-attended two hour meeting hosted at the Frankfurt Book Fair became the latest contribution to the latest debate on Open Access, as a number of distinguished speakers considered  the place that Open Access has now reached and predicted what the next stages in its development will be.  Frederick Fenter, of OA provider Frontiers, said that OA has now established itself as a great innovator in publishing. OA-led innovations include the use of article-level metrics, improving the review process and using social networking.  Fenter said the challenge now was to “find good ways to disseminate content and good ways to make it discoverable, to make it more connected.”  

EU rules on VAT

VAT on books and e-books is a perennial preoccupation for the publishing industry, sometimes raising a debate in which British publishers are reluctant to engage because, of course, at present VAT is not charged on print in this country; however, like the rest of Europe, we are obliged to charge VAT on e-books.  The President of the Italian Publishers Association, Marco Polillo, said at Frankfurt that Italy would lead the campaign to have governments accept that ‘a book is a book’, and that therefore the same levels of VAT should be levied on all books, whatever the format.  He said that it was a ‘cultural challenge’ which the Italian publishing community was determined to address.  Good news or bad for publishers based in the UK?