Friday, October 18, 2013

Notes from the Frankfurt Book Fair

Our Assistant Director and Rights & Permissions Manager John McLeod was able to enjoy October in Germany, with a focus more on books and licensing than on beer and lederhosen. Read his notes below from the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair to glimpse the latest in the global publishing industry.
Last Friday, the University of Texas Press attended the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest international business and rights meeting for book publishers. Like many industries, publishing has increasingly become an international endeavor, and Frankfurt provides an opportunity for us to connect with publishing professionals from as nearby as Mexico and as far away as Australia.
At UT Press we have a long tradition of publishing in Latin American studies—we were among the first to focus on the field. This year in Frankfurt we met with publishers from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, and Colombia to discuss potential translations of our books. We talked with ebook vendors who see Latin America, especially Mexico and Brazil, as some of the most important emerging markets, not only for ebooks in Spanish and Portuguese, but in English, as well. And we were able to meet with officials from government sponsored entities in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico about grants they offer foreign publishers as incentives to translate their native authors into English.
Photo caption: Reading can lend you wings. ARD Fotobox at the ARD stand in the Forum.
© Frankfurt Book Fair/Peter Hirth
Latin American studies is just one part of our publishing program with international potential. The Europeans, Koreans, and Japanese are interested in our film & media studies titles. A few countries have devoted audiences for books on photography, particularly Germany and Italy. Turkey remains a bright spot in its region with publishers there taking an interest in our Middle Eastern studies program. And in China they seem to be interested in a little bit of everything. For almost all areas our list, Frankfurt offers a chance to compare our work against that of the larger publishing world and to better understand where we fit in and how we measure up.
A lot of the buzz at this year’s show was about the staggering merger of two of the biggest global players, Penguin and Random House. Just how powerful that new company will be was driven home for everyone on Friday when it was announced that Alice Munro had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. PW Daily noted that the newly combined PRH (as people already call them) controlled Munro’s work in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Spain, and Latin America through six different imprints.
UT Press is of course trying to be global on a much more modest scale and with a very different set of goals than large commercial publishers. But we are similar to the likes of PRH in that disseminating content globally is increasingly important for sales and to meet the needs of the scholars and writers we publish. Striving to be a truly international university press is also consistent with the mission of the University of Texas at Austin to be a worldwide leader in higher education.
With technology making it easier and cheaper to reach readers worldwide it's truly an exciting time for publishers, but there is a lot to figure out. Will government-mandated ebook programs in Brazil drive sales of our digital books there? How can we license more books to China with their seemingly bottomless interest in a wide array of topics? Will scholarly audiences in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East rebound when the political situation improves? Each October in Frankfurt we have an opportunity to talk to people on the ground in these places to answer such questions, while showcasing the UT Press to the wider publishing world. 
John McLeod, Assistant Director and Rights & Permissions Manager

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