Mon, Oct 10, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Book fair tackles challenge of digital age storytelling

AFP, BERLIN

In the not too distant past authors had to deal with just a publisher, but are now being forced to embrace the digital age and negotiate the rights to their works for TV, films and e-books.

The organizers of the Frankfurt Book Fair, which opens on Wednesday, said the challenges thrown up by the upheaval in the book world would be a central theme at the world’s biggest gathering of industry movers and shakers.

The buying and selling of rights to works has soared by 30 percent over the past seven years, Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos said.

“Rights trading has become broader and has become a trade with companies, with people, agents who we did not [even] know in recent years,” he told reporters. “Suddenly there are lots of people with whom one has to talk.”

He highlighted Cornelia Funke, one of Germany’s best-known children’s authors, whose book Reckless was written with a scriptwriter alongside from the start.

“A book contract for us is 10 pages at the most. In the film industry they are thousands of pages because everything must be covered,” Boos said of the practical challenges.

Gadgets such as the “enhanced e-book,” a mixture of the book, audio, video and game, and other multimedia products have taken the fair by storm over the last few years.

Now, organizers say, authors and publishers need to formulate business strategies with multimedia interest in mind.

“We talked a lot in recent years about the devices, the e-books [electronic books], tablet PCs [tablet personal computers] and the Kindle [electronic book reader]” Boos said.

“I think this theme is slowly becoming old news ... what is on these devices is really the focus,” he said.

In response, an exhibition hall will be dedicated to representatives from different creative -industries to help them meet and generate business during the five-day fair.

More than half of the events at the fair will address digitization. About 7,500 exhibitors from more than 110 countries are expected to attend, including from debt-ridden Greece and Portugal.

Literature from Iceland, which experienced its own dramatic economic collapse in 2008 and is now on the path to recovery, will be in the limelight as guest of honor.

A new translation into German of the Icelandic Sagas, perhaps the country’s best-known literary accomplishment, describing events in 10th century and early 11th century Iceland, will be presented in Frankfurt.

Head of the Icelandic delegation Halldor Gudmundsson highlighted the rich literary tradition of the country, whose population numbers about 318,000 and where its inhabitants buy an average of eight books a year.

“That interests us [to be guest of honor] especially because the German book market is important for us and because it is also important in other countries and is taken note of,” he told reporters.

“The Germans are very industrious translators,” he added.

“Harry Potter producer David Heyman and The King’s Speech producer Paul Brett, as well as actor Rupert Everett will take part in a two-day forum on the future of the media industry.

Hollywood director Roland Emmerich presents his new film Anonymous about whether William Shakespeare actually wrote the works that made him famous and takes part in a discussion on the authorship debate.

“Content and stories are no longer bound to a specific format. Instead they expand to form an entire universe,” the forum’s director Britta Friedrich said in a written statement.

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