At the Leipzig Book Fair, families strolled through the bright fairgrounds, checking out the 2,348 exhibitors from 36 countries. The fair, held in modern buildings outside the eastern German city of Leipzig, has emerged as Europe's largest literary festival for author readings and events.
Organizer Wolfgang Marzin couldn't have been happier with the fair, which ended Sunday.
"We had the nicest book fair," Marzin said. "It's the most peaceful and reader-friendly book fair."
Finding an audience
Germany hosts two large book fairs each year. The trade fair in Frankfurt is the undisputed king of the book fair scene. Leipzig does not even strive to compete with Frankfurt, but instead has established its own identity, especially with its popular concept, "Leipzig Reads." Unlike Frankfurt, which is geared towards trade professionals, Leipzig generates much of its business from the general public.
In the evenings, readings are offered around town in bookshops, cafes or at City Hall. There are appearances by famous authors such as Nobel-prize winning German author Günter Grass.
The fair has focused on attracting readers of all ages and exposing them to many different genres of literature.
A young girl showed her delight while browsing picture books about horses, farms and fire trucks. Her younger brother slept in his stroller and their mother laughed at the costumed manga comic fans behind her.
"There are simply things going on here," she said. "That's cool."
Getting young people to attend the fair is a central goal of the organizers, Marzin said. Exhausted kids can be found sprawled on the floor of the central glass hall.
German books take center stage
Leipzig has a long tradition of printing and book trade. After World War II and the division of Germany, Leipzig became a focal point for East-West publishers. After German reunification in 1990, many publishing houses in the former East Germany shut down or integrated into West German ones. A year later, the Leipzig Book Fair started.
The fair focuses on German language books, introducing up-and-coming authors from Central and Eastern Europe to the German market.
The relaxed atmosphere is the secret to what makes this fair popular. The laid back pace makes it easy for fairgoers to stumble across literary jewels.
"You discover all the types of books here, ones that you can't find in the little bookstore in our town and ones you can't track down on the Internet. Here you have them all in front of you," a woman said.
The next Leipzig Book Fair will take place from March 13 to March 16 2008 .Silke Bartlick (th)