Frankfurt ’17: Innovation Meets Imagination

Jane Chun, Laura Kain, and Luisa Beguiristain take in the evening sights in Frankfurt.

Every year the Frankfurt Book Fair provides a (massive) space for publishers to display their literary riches and discuss new and ongoing trends and issues facing the industry. MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media students Luisa Beguiristain, Jane Chun, and Laura Kain traveled excitedly to Frankfurt recently, ready to help out at the largest book fair in the world. The students were assigned to specific roles at the fair, allowing them to interact with a variety of professionals and better understand the world of publishing. Read on for their insights from Frankfurt:

Publishing Perspectives’ Hannah Johnson (right) discusses the Show Daily with Jane.

 

Jane Chun started her week on the front lines of the fair. Under the guidance of Hannah Johnson, Publisher, Publishing Perspectives, Jane joined a team producing a “Show Daily” magazine for the fair. While Jane’s primary responsibilities were copyediting and fact-checking, she also conducted research and interviews with editors, publishers, rights directors, and more.

“Even though I was a bit intimidated at first, everyone was extremely friendly, and I was able to talk to people I wouldn’t otherwise approach on my own,” said Jane. “Many of them, despite their packed schedules, were willing to continue our conversation even after the interview portion was over.”

In these conversations, Jane learned about what each professional sought to accomplish at the fair, titles they were excited about (both on their publishing lists and those of others), and deals they made. She also asked about interesting publishing trends they may have noticed over the last year and at the fair.

“It was great putting skills I learned in ‘Editorial Fundamentals’ and other classes to use, as well as absorbing as much as I could from everyone on the team,” she noted.

Two halls down, Laura Kain was immersed in THE ARTS+, where creative content, technology, start-ups, and art intersect. Laura witnessed how companies showcase their products and ideas. She was particularly impressed by art book publisher, Taschen; Smart-Collectors, which rents art pieces for display to businesses and individuals; companies dabbling in artificial intelligence; and, of course, Google.

Laura working the VR ride, “The Fairgrounds.”

Throughout the week, Laura was assigned to “The Fairgrounds,” an exhibit by Netherlands-based Dropstuff, a company that designs interactive art exhibits for public spaces. “People made a fun spectacle of themselves while mounted on supermarket kiddy rides, turning the exhibit into living art,” said Laura. She also monitored activity around the artificial intelligence writing robot “manifest,” which produced approximately 80 manifestos per day, each eight sentences long.

“THE ARTS+ reminded me that while books and text are very valuable, there are many other types of media through which people grow and experience new things, and they deserve our attention as well,” said Laura. “The potential of these new media has not yet been fully reached.”

 

My volunteer duties were a bit different: Tuesday, I met with Antonia Stock, who coordinates the education conference and LitCam area at the fair. LitCam, short for Literacy Campaign, combines soccer training, remedial lessons, and cultural activities to help improve children’s social and communicative skills. Early in the week, I was able to help set up the LitCam area and speak to several staff members and volunteers. In awe, they mentioned how “everything happens so fast, it’s almost like magic.”

Blogger Luisa (center) taking notes at a LitCam panel.

Throughout the week, LitCam hosted several panels and discussions at the Kulturstadion (Culture, Stadium). During “How Does Reading Work? A Debate on the Impact of Digital Technologies on Reading and Learning,” a panel of speakers discussed literacy, competence, and the importance of imagination. In his opening statement, Jens Nymand-Christensen, Deputy Director General at The European Commission, said, “Without literacy it is incredibly difficult to develop other skills and…competences. Literacy links to the ability to function in this society.”

Given a little spare time to walk around the fair, I was able to attend “The Great Franco-German Start-Up Contest,” where 12 participating start-up companies each gave a three-minute pitch to a team of judges. I was impressed by how much innovation drives the publishing industry. From “My Fabulous Storyteller Lunii” to the personalized learning platform Domoscio, these projects were only a few of the outstanding innovations present at the fair.

This year was one of great change for the Frankfurt Book Fair—with new areas focused on arts, innovation, and education. Through our conversations with professionals in the industry and discussions every night when we stumbled tiredly back to our lodgings, Jane, Laura, and I took home knowledge that will help us move forward in our careers. We also gained the important understanding that we must always look to the future of publishing.

by Luisa Beguiristain

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