All the fun of the fair

Chris Abbott

Manuscripts were traded at fairs in Frankfurt in the 13th century, but today's Book Fair is as much about electronic publishing as traditional print media. It produces its own CD-Rom alongside its catalogue, and visiting journalists can collect press releases on disc and use Internet terminals to communicate.

Much of the activity at Frankfurt is to do with selling rights. Electronic rights were on offer for picture libraries, books and archives of all kinds, indicating the kind of products to emerge in two years.

Many new ventures involve the Internet. German publisher Egmont announced Fun Online, a comic for 6 to 14-year-olds which comes with its own CD-Rom and Internet connection. The Internet service is censored and parents set limits on connection time and costs. The service looks like a comic, and uses the same characters in print as on screen. It will probably eventually appear in other European countries.

Electronic publishing is transforming publishing. Federal Minister Jurgen Ruttgers told exhibitors, "A book today is a product that is technologically fully mature. This cannot yet be said of electronic media. People will continue to buy content and not technology. And that is a good thing, for only if books exist will the information society be an informed society."

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