Reading at Leipzig′s Book Fair | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 25.03.2004
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Reading at Leipzig's Book Fair

With more than 2,000 exhibitors from 29 countries, numerous events and prominent German literati, the Leipzig book fair, which opens Thursday, is hoping to become a major player on the international book scene.

Heaven for book lovers.

Heaven for book lovers.

The annual Frankfurt book fair may still be Germany's seminal event in the international world of books, but in recent years it's been facing stiff competition from Leipzig, the up-and-comming city in former communist eastern Germany.

This year is no different with Leipzig, seemingly under the motto "bigger is better," kicking off its annual book trade show with an even greater slew of exhibitors and events.

Book industry optimistic

Over 2,000 exhibitors from 29 countries set up their stands in the cavernous trade center on the outskirts of the city. Oliver Zille, head of the Leipzig book fair, said the number of exhibitors rose five percent compared to the previous year.

Leipziger Buchmesse

Leipzig book fair

"An appearance in Leipzig offers in particular small publishers an unrivalled price advantage," said Zille, who added he expected more than 100,000 visitors to the fair by Sunday. Indeed, the opportunity to attract nation-wide media attention in Germany and win new readers and buyers at a reasonable budget is increasingly luring new exhibitors to Saxony's second city.

Dieter Schormann, director of a German book industry trade organization, said the positive news coming from Leipzig is a sign of upturn in the ailing book trade and publishing industry, which has been plagued by crisis in the past two years.

"A lot has happened in the publishing houses. We have new collections and modernized retail stores that have adapted to market changes. That's why I'm an optimist and think that I'll be able to announce a growth rate of at least three percent by the end of the year, could be four," Schormann said.

"Leipzig Reads" set to dazzle

But away from the optimistic business aspect of the fair, the Leipzig book fair is also gearing up for its literary event "Leipzig Reads" -- an inseparable part of the annual trade that aims to show the city can lay claim to the slogan, "The biggest literature festival in Europe."

Jeffrey Eugenides

American writer Jeffrey Eugenides

In over 1,200 events round the clock in bars, cafes and theatres in the city, famous authors such as Christa Wolf, Christoph Hein, Adolf Muschg, current Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides (photo), actors and politicians like Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel will read from their works and hold discussions.

It's an aspect that marks out the Leipzig book fair from the cool professionalism of the Frankfurt book show. "Leipzig has a significantly more familiar atmosphere than Frankfurt. There's more reading involved," author and journalist Wibke Bruhns told the daily newspaper Handelsblatt.

Audio book a hit

Another continuing highlight at this year's Leipzig book fair remains the audio book. "The audio book has a permanent place now in book fair happenings. This dynamically expanding market also registered a profit last year of an impressive 10 percent," said Wolfgang Marzin, chairman of the Leipziger Book Fair.

The Leipzig Book Fair, which made the audio book a focus four years ago, now has over 100 exhibitors specializing in audio books. The fair has become an important meeting point for the entire national audio book publishing industry.

Building literary bridges

In addition to its usual attractions which include children's and travel literature, the spring show will continue with other traditional features, in particular its role in attempting to build a literary bridge towards Central and Eastern Europe.

Leipziger Buchmesse, Plakat

Logo of Leipzig book fair

The works of new upcoming authors from the ten mainly former communist eastern countries that are poised to join the EU on May 1, will be introduced in dozens of events that will initiate debates on the role of an expanded European Union.

Dieter Schormann is confident that an enlarged EU will bestow further importance on the Leipzig Book Fair. "When we have the eastern expansion in a few weeks from now, then Leipzig will gain more importance as a book fair in the future, as a meeting place for readers, buyers, intellectuals and fair visitors," he said.

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