With 2,069 exhibitors from 43 countries, the Leipzig Book Fair has a massive scale. But the focus this year is on empowering the individual - whether that's the small bookseller or the self-published author.
Leipzig is presenting itself this year as a city of music, and soprano Anja Pöche is responsible for the unexpected sounds emanating from the opening ceremony of the Leipzig Book Fair, which runs through Sunday (17.03.2013). "That's so cool," a girl says. The boys next to her all nod in agreement.
The young students have already gathered a handful of brochures and folders packed with book extracts. They're here on a school trip - a visit to the Leipzig Book Fair is obligatory for schoolchildren in the state of Saxony. It's the region's annual attempt to awaken the interest of the children and young people in authors and books.
New industry trends
"With 2,069 exhibitors from 43 countries, this spring's book fair is definitely up to par," the fair's director Oliver Zille says. It's also a reflection of how the main players in the book industry are constantly on the move.
A new addition to this year's fair is a specialized program for authors, self-publishers, bloggers and publicists. The program addresses everything from how they can produce their own books in three easy steps, to how best to market their work in the ever-competitive industry.
One of the bestsellers at publishers Books On Demand is the book "Natural Dog Food." Well over 10,000 copies have been sold so far. None of the traditional publishing houses was interested in the book, director Florian Geuppert explains, so the author decided to self-publish with his company.
It's a route many are taking. Books On Demand releases around 10,000 new books each year. For a small fee, authors upload their manuscripts, set a layout and a price and then anyone can order a copy of the printed book online. It's what Geuppert calls a "democratic publishing platform."
Expanding digital archives
Books On Demand is an important partner for publishers like Christoph Links. He transfers old titles to the site when a new print run wouldn't make financial sense. Over 1,600 publishers are already using this type of digital backlist.
The book market is expanding in the wake of new technological developments, Leipzig Book Fair director Oliver Zille says. However, books are proving stronger and stronger in the competition against other media and leisure activities.
Publishers of books for children and young people are also having to respond to market developments in their own ways. They've long been offering audio books, e-books and DVDs alongside printed books. From bed linens to cuddly toys, the palette of products accompanying any given printed book is growing. New apps give readers a taste of multimedia sequels.
Apple and Amazon are the main platforms used to distribute digital content. Publishers looking to assert their position on the market have no choice but to participate, according to Markus Dömer, head of business development at Carlsen.
David vs. Goliath
International online retailer Amazon is a key talking point at the Leipzig Book Fair. The company's continually rising sales volumes are making life increasingly impossible for book stores in Germany.
"Whoever puts themselves in the hands of monopolists can bank on a devaluation of independence, individuality and diversity," Gottfried Honnefelder, chairman of the Industry Association of German Booksellers, warned at the opening of the fair.
In a three-year offensive across Germany, the industry association now wants to campaign for the retention of diversity in the bookselling trade and to make clear how unique an environment bookstores provide - not only for discovering literature, but also for fostering dialogue about books and obtaining advice.
Another way to discover new books and authors is, of course, the Leipzig Book Fair. Over 100,000 titles, 2,500 audio books and 1,000 DVDs are being presented here, from high-brow works of literary fiction to self-help tomes and travel guides.
As the guest country at the Frankfurt Book Fair next fall, a host of Brazilian authors are in attendance in Leipzig. And under the title "tranzyt. Kilometer 2013," more than 40 authors from Poland, Ukraine and Belarus are presenting their work and discussing the issues of identity, women's power and censorship.
Lively discussions are also taking place at the 2,800 satellite events as part of the always popular Leipzig Reads festival.
One of the most prominent participants is Klaus-Michael Bogdal, the winner of this year's Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding for his study, "Europe's Invention of the Gypsies" (Suhrkamp, 2011).
Author David Wagner is the recipient of this year's Leipzig Book Fair Award in the fiction category for his book "Leben" ("Life," Rowohlt, 2013). The book tells the story of young father waiting anxiously for a liver donor. Both Bogdal and Wagner's books deal with difficult themes - but that's what the Leipzig Book Fair is all about.