Summing up after Thessaloniki fair

The statistics that the National Book Center (EKEBI) released to the press Monday officially confirm the general impression that this year’s Thessaloniki Book Fair was a success. The number of visitors, 70,000, is up 40 percent over last year, with the number on Saturday showing an increase of 300 percent. «The message has got through,» said Catherine Velissaris, EKEBI’s director. «People wanted to see the fair and they stayed for an average of two hours.» Of those 70,000 visitors, 10,000 were children. Classes from 50 schools took part in the activities at the TBF’s Children’s Corner on the Thursday and Friday, and other children came with their parents on the weekend. The book presentations, talks and discussions held during the fair proved popular too, attracting 9,000 people. With 300 publishers, 80 booksellers and 150 librarians from Greece as well as 100 publishers from 47 other countries attending, the TBF has established a solid core of regular participants. The publishers were pleased, not only because they had an opportunity to meet other members of the trade and to buy and sell rights but also because they sold a lot of books to the public. The fair has also consolidated its image of being a trade event that is also open to the public and has a strong cultural profile. Velissaris quoted Barbel Becker, head of the international department of the Frankfurt Book Fair, who had praised the professionalism of the Thessaloniki fair which, he said, «shows it has a future.» There is always room for improvement. Velissaris would like to see more stands at the fair, and said that more work needed to be done by some local publishers on learning how to sell rights. She also noted the need for the Culture Ministry’s long-stalled program of funding for translation of Greek literature to go into operation again now that the ministry has met its previous obligations to foreign publishers. As of next year, the TBF will invite a country, in all likelihood France, to be guest of honor at the fair. Citing the example of German publishers who support the preparations for the Frankfurt Book Fair by bringing out translations of books in the language of that year’s guest of honor, EKEBI’s director suggested that was worth emulating.

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