THESSALONIKI – While books continue to be the foremost cultural product in France, representing turnover of 4.1 billion euros in 2006, in Greece there has been a slight drop in the number of books produced. At the same time, however, a vast number of books are still being distributed and sold via the press, with 600 titles in 2007. This is just a sample of the latest book production data for France and Greece that Catherine Velissaris – director of the National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI) – announced Tuesday at a press conference in Thessaloniki on the occasion of the book fair which opens today. Each year at the book fair, EKEBI releases the latest data on Greek books. This year, with France the guest of honor at the fair, visitors will have an opportunity to see for themselves a wide range of French publications. France annually produces 70,000 titles and sells 470 million books. Of those, around 1,000 become best-sellers. Literature accounts for just over 20 percent of total sales. In Greece the number of titles sold in 2007 fell slightly (to 9,991 including reissues, compared with 10,258 in 2006). For the first time, the number of children’s books, which had shown steady growth in previous years, fell considerably (by 334 titles) as did books in translation (with 278 fewer titles). However, works in translation still represent 41.5 percent of the total number of books published in 2007 (3,900 against 4,178 in 2006). Greece publishes a higher percentage of literature books in translation than any other country in Europe (47.9 percent of the total), the vast majority of which are novels (71 percent), and most of which are translated from English. As for Greek literature, a higher number of short stories, essays and poetry were published, while the number of novels, although retaining lead position, fell by 4.5 percent (316 titles). Official opening Margaritis Tzimas, minister for Macedonia-Thrace, will open the 5th Thessaloniki Book Fair at 7.30 p.m. today. Among the many foreign visitors present will be Peter Weidhass, chairman of the Conference of International Book Fair Directors. EKEBI’s president, writer Petros Markaris, noted that despite a certain element of distrust on the part of the Greeks, and publishers feeling overstretched due to high costs, increased participation this year «was the best guarantee for the Thessaloniki Book Fair, which now ranks as one of the major European fairs.» Authors and illustrators from abroad to meet with readers at the Thessaloniki Book Fair Writers from around the world will be at the Thessaloniki Book Fair and it’s a chance for members of the public to meet them and hear them speak. Award-winning writer Jona-than Coe, popular author of «What A Carve Up!» (1994), «The House of Sleep» (1997), «The Rotters’ Club» (2001) and «The Closed Circle» (2004), will take part in a discussion on Saturday from 1 to 2.30 p.m. (Karagatsis Auditorium, Pavilion 15) and will sign copies of his books in English at 3 p.m. at bookseller Konstantinidis’s stand (42a, Pavilion 15). Dutch journalist Geert Mak’s account of the year he spent traveling in Europe in an old camper van and reporting back daily to his newspaper became the best-selling book «In Europe: Travels through the 20th Century.» You can see him tomorrow, at 8 to 9 p.m. in the Pentzikis Auditorium in Pavilion 13, when Metaichmio presents the Greek edition of the book, translated by Ino van Dyck Balta. Albanian writer and script-writer Ylljet Alicka wrote the screenplay for the film «Slogans,» based on her book of the same name, which will be screened tomorrow at 8.30 p.m. at the Olympeion theater in Aristotelous Square. Before the screening, Alicka, who is also the Albanian ambassador to France, will discuss the film with journalists Nikos Bakounakis and Gazmend Kapllani. Marina Nemat, author of «The Prisoner of Tehran,» was persecuted for her political beliefs in her native Iran but eventually managed to escape to Canada, where she now lives. She will meet readers tomorrow from 1 to 2 p.m. (Karagatsis Auditorium, Pavilion 15). Plantu, Le Monde’s famous cartoonist, has been invited by the French Institute of Athens to talk on «Cartoons: The News in Images» in the guest of honor auditorium at 6-7.30 p.m. tomorrow. And children can join EKEBI’s workshops with visiting writer-illustrators in the same amphitheater tomorrow morning: French-Cuban writer-illustrator Joel Franz Rosell (10-11 a.m.) and French writer-illustrator Rebecca Dautremer (11 – noon). For children TBF has always paid special attention to young visitors, who will have some 80 activities and events to choose from this year. The theme is children’s rights to books. Today’s events in the Children’s Corner start with a theater game based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale «The Ugly Duckling» at 10 a.m., while at 5 p.m. there’s an interactive workshop on folk tales of the world with sounds and music and visual stimuli.