Baltic Book Fair hits all-time high

  • 2001-04-26
  • Ressi Kaera
TALLINN - Over 250 publishing houses from seven countries came to the biannual Baltic Book Fair held in Tallinn on April 19 to 21, as did publishers from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Britain and France.

The first fair kicked off in 1995, also in Tallinn. Now the event takes place every other year, hosted in rotation by the three Baltic countries.

According to the Estonian Publishers Association, the publishing business in Estonia is on the rise. In 2000 an all-time record was established with 3,500 fiction books published.

The fair was also an elegant finale to the International Year of the Book. Representing information centers, publishers' unions and the larger publishing houses, it closed the events that celebrated the 475th anniversary of the first Estonian Book.

The largest participant, Frankfurter Buchmesse, represented 180 publishing houses with 1,200 titles, including a wide range of fiction, art, philosophy, children's literature and other books. Doris Muller-Witte, its project manager, was optimistic about the future of trading with the Baltics.

About the same number of books, mostly concerning engineering, the sciences, computer science and economics, were presented by the European sales agency Durnell Marketing. Its managing director Andrew Durnell said he had traveled to each of the book fairs over the last seven years and had seen a trend develop.

"There has been an improvement, a positive change. Although the book fairs are not as long as they once were, nor as special, they are still an important event for local and international publishers.

"Telecommunications and the Internet have made information more available, so fewer people come to the fair and discover things they did not know. But those who do come penetrate deeper, and that is what counts," said Durnell.

David Olson, the regional manager of Wiley Publishing House for Northern and Eastern Europe, said the fair was nicely presented, well laid out and professionally located.

"Each time I come here, I see how the market has advanced. Although Estonia is a small market for us, it is developing and has good prospects," he said.

Jeva Jansone, the President of the Latvian Publishers Association, said she thinks the Baltics could achieve more by working closer together in the marketing and financial spheres of publishing.

During the fair, participants and visitors had the opportunity to meet famous writers, among them the Estonian writer Jaan Kross and younger, fashionable authors like Toomas Vint and Peeter Sauter. On every day of the fair, in front of an enthusiastic audience, a different literary critic hosted the authors and teased clever answers out of them using intriguing questions.

The presence of British writers Stella Duffy, Luke Sutherland and Peter Guttridge made the discussions especially fascinating.

Adrian Bullock, a professor at Oxford University, took part in an educational seminar about technology and the publishing business.

"I visited the Baltics in 1994. The biggest impression I will take away with me from this visit is the extraordinary development that has taken place since then. Looking around the fair here, at the number of publishers who are participating, the subjects they publish and the quality of their production, I can see a lot of commitment, skill, dedication and foresight," Bullock said.