Annual book fair needs overhaul

This year’s annual book fair, which opened last Friday and runs through May 25, will be the last to be held at its customary location, the Pedion tou Areos Park in downtown Athens. Publishers behind the long-running event, held for the 26th time this year, will seek a new location offering improved and updated facilities. The grounds at the Zappeion Hall have been listed as a top possibility. The agenda at this year’s fair, officially launched by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday, was presented recently by Eleni Kanaki, the president of SEBA, the Athens Association of Publishers and Booksellers. A total of 260 booths representing 300 publishers are taking part. Despite these solid-sounding numbers, the long-running event is showing signs of fatigue. Change is necessary. Kathimerini asked three publishers for their views on what they believe the fair’s future direction should be. Titos Mylonopoulos, who operates Odysseas Press and is also president of SEKB, the League of Book Publishers, noted that overall participation ought to be reduced and greater emphasis be put on more recent releases. «I think that fewer publishers – those who truly are publishers – should take part, while emphasis should be given to books released in the past five years,» Mylonopoulos said. «This is no exaggeration, but participants include publishers who haven’t released a single title since 1965. In my opinion, emphasis should be given to new books, new production,» he added. Magda Kotzia, the head at Exantas Press, stressed the importance of book fairs and the vital support they lend to the sector. «Fairs are the only events at which publishers can showcase their production,» said Kotzia. «Moreover, a slight increase in the number of visits to book stores is observed following book fairs,» she added. Kotzia suggested the implementation of a minimal entrance charge to limit the book fair’s attendance to truly interested parties. «Abroad, all book fairs have an entrance fee, whether merchandise is sold or not,» Kotzia said. «I like open-air fairs but would prefer if vendors selling jewelry, engravings, postcards and maps did not turn up,» she added. Dionysis Vitsos of Periplou Press called for an aesthetic upgrade to the fair. «The fact that it has remained unchanged since 1978 when everything around us has changed is a problem,» Vitsos pointed out, adding that the event’s objectives needed to be clarified. «We need to decide what it is that we want… Do we update the public on the latest releases? Do we offer the reader older titles at good prices?» he said. Book fairs are a tried and tested institution, yet improvement is necessary. Moreover, annual output in the sector is enormous. On the one hand, publishers and writers who wish to promote their work at fairs strive for a favorable presence, while, on the other, consumers, in their bid to be informed, can lose focus amid the abundance of titles on offer. Too many booths hosting too many publishers does not assist readership.

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