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Frankfurt book fair to look to future via today's children

BERLIN--The Frankfurt Book Fair will spotlight child and youth literature and its role at the avant-garde of the publishing world with playful apps for smartphones and tablet computers as well as interactive games.

The media world for children and youngsters breaks new ground for publishers in the digital age by pushing the boundaries far beyond the printed book, say organizers of the world's biggest book fair, which opens Wednesday.

Electronics giant Sony and Nintendo, the titan in electronic games, will be among about 7,400 exhibitors at the five-day fair, reflecting innovations in an industry where “content is king, the fair's director said.

“Children's and youth media are a prototype for what is happening in the publishing industry but also for what is happening at the moment socially,” Juergen Boos told reporters.

Sony will showcase its new Wonderbook device, which under the guise of a classic book links up to a PlayStation console to display 3D images on screen for its young user.

As well as homing in on which trends may evolve into universal standards, industry movers and shakers will ponder whether new technology limits the imagination, or encourages it to expand.

“In order to keep up with the changing reading and learning habits of future generations, we need to constantly create new formats and develop and expand popular topics and trends,” Boos said.

He said around 1,500 publishers who deal exclusively with the children and youth market were due to attend the Frankfurt fair, describing the sector as a growth area.

The fair not only acts as a kind of “scout” and “navigation system” but is also a forum for bringing together different multimedia representatives to get a project off the ground, Katja Boehne, the fair's spokeswoman, said.

“When someone has a children's book, they look for musicians, they look for technology companies, they also look for computer games experts and then together a children's book is initiated,” she said.

Dealing with the development of offshoot products from a book has become a trend at the Frankfurt event, she added.

Technological innovation however is not the only way in which children's literature has changed, with content moving away from being either “moral” in style or purely entertaining.

“Demanding children's and youth literature, which we now have, has basically also become more entertaining,” Boos said highlighting a children's book about a dysfunctional family by New Zealand writer Kate De Goldi.

Education is another major theme at this year's fair which will display a 'classroom of the future' offering an insight into how tomorrow's students will learn with interactive or digitized aids.

While the book fair has long come to terms with the advent of electronic books and what they mean for their bound rivals, the share of e-books in the entertainment literature market in Germany remains less than two percent.

“It's not to do with the range, the e-books are there ... it's more a social phenomenon,” Boos said of a general attachment in Europe to the physical presence of the printed book as well as its value as a cultural object.

New Zealand will this year be in the limelight as guest of honor, bringing around 68 authors and 100 artists to mix with the publishers, writers, agents and sellers from more than 100 countries.

With several debt-wracked eurozone countries feeling the pinch, Boehne said they had been pleasantly surprised that attendance figures had remained steady and saw it as a “symptom of the crisis” that exhibitors felt the need to keep in touch with business partners.

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