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October 21, 2021

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Frankfurt’s book fair back again

The Frankfurt book fair, the world’s largest, celebrated its return on Tuesday, but with fewer big names attending and star author Margaret Atwood only joining via video link, was not quite back to its former glory.

After going almost fully digital in 2020 to curb the coronavirus spread, this year’s fair will see publishers, booksellers, authors and readers meeting face-to-face again.

But it will be a more muted version of past editions, as uncertainty about travel restrictions has kept many international visitors away.

“Back to business does not mean back to normal,” fair director Juergen Boos said at the opening, but the event nevertheless offered a chance for the industry to “reconnect,” he added.

Award-winning novelist Margaret Atwood, whose native Canada is this year’s guest of honour, dialled into the opening ceremony via Skype to deliver a message of hope.

“Covid and the climate crisis have shown us how fragile we are as human beings,” she said. “But we have also been demonstrating how resilient, inventive, and how creative we can be.”

Books had helped people to escape the isolation of the pandemic and make sense of the world, said Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“Books are both time travel devices and empathy machines. They take us to distant lands, allow us inside other worlds.”

The fair, which opened to trade visitors yesterday before welcoming the general public later in the week, runs until Sunday.

It comes as the book industry has been “doing pretty well over the past 18 months,” according to Boos, with people in many countries using the slower pace of life during lockdown to read more — adolescents especially.

In the United States, printed book sales rose by more than 8 percent in 2020 to record their best year in a decade, according to the NPD research group.

Growth was driven by teen categories but also adult non-fiction, as people turned to cookbooks and DIY books to pass the time at home.


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