Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Paul Coelho opens Frankfurt Book Fair: "don’t be afraid of sharing your ideas."

Paul Coelho on new tendencies and sharing Ideas

Paul Coelho has opened the Frankfurt Book Fair with a talk about his experience of digitisation, and “Giordano Bruno”, the story of a “heretic” condemned in 1600 by the Vatican and burned at the stake for his beliefs (which included the theory that the Sun is at the center of the Solar System). "The reason I’m mentioning this here is the following: in the film there’s a passage in which Giordano Bruno mentions that he just visited the Frankfurt Book Fair to meet some publishers of his work. And here we are, four centuries later, not only to meet publishers, but to discuss new tendencies, as well."

Coelho spoke about reader involvement, sharing free content and the World Wide Web, "The Internet has taught me this: don’t be afraid of sharing your ideas. Don’t be afraid of engaging others to voice their ideas. "

Other current news stories however highlight the issues that some authors have in doing just that.

Italian Writer in Hiding
Police in
Italy are looking into reports today, that the Naples mafia plans to carry out its threat to kill the author of the best-selling book "Gomorrah," which was made into the film that won the Grand Prix runner-up prize in Cannes in May.

Roberto Saviano, 29, has been living in hiding with 24-hour police protection for two years since receiving Camorra threats after writing his book, which is based upon his own investigations into mafia activities. It has sold 1.2 million copies in Italy and been translated into forty-two languages.

"We've launched in inquiry to verify the truth behind this news," Franco Roberto, a coordinator of the local anti-mafia squad for Naples, told Reuters. Reports said that concrete plans had been made to murder the author 'before Christmas'.

The Jewel of Medina Author not in Frankfurt

Conflicting reports in the Bookseller and Galley Cat indicate that Sherry Jones, author of The Jewel of Medina, will not attend the Frankfurt Book Fair as planned, to kick off a Europe-wide tour. The book has been delayed in Britain by Gibson Square Publishers. The reasons are contradictory.

Prior to the fire-bombing of UK publisher Gibson Square offices 10 days ago, Jones planned to attend the fair. The original launch was set to be simultaneous in the US, UK and Germany during the Frankfurt Book Fair. However, publication in the UK has since been placed in "suspended animation" while the UK Publisher takes advice. The US Publisher said the decision was not related to the attack, but due to the acceleration of (US) publication.

In their own words, "Gibson Square specialises in books that are able to contribute to a current debate." The debate online and in the press over The Jewel of Medina, a historical novel of the love story between the Prophet Mohammed and his favorite wife A’isha, began in August when its previous publisher Random House, made known the decision to terminate the novel following criticism after a galley review by University of Texas Professor of History and Middle Eastern Studies, Denise Spellberg. On September 5, 2008, it was announced that American publisher Beaufort Books (previously best known as the publishers of "If I Did It" by O. J. Simpson) would publish The Jewel of Medina in America.

Paul Coelho: adapt or die
Coehelo has long been a pioneer in his use of the Internet to reach and engage with his authors. On his own blog before attending the Fair, he asked his community their opinions on the future of the book. In his opening remarks he acknowledged, "There are still two problems to tackle: copyrights and the sustainability of the publishing industry. I don’t have a solution, but we are facing a new era, so either we adapt or we die."

German Book Prize Winner Announced : Uwe Tellkamp
Adaptation is also a theme in the the German Book Prize winner Uwe Tellkamp's 1,000-page novel about the downfall of former East Germany, Der Turm (The Tower). The €25,000 prize for his novel was awarded at a ceremony in Frankfurt last night, which marked the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair. It tells the story of Anne and Richard Hoffmann as they observe the downfall of a social system. They belong to a group that socialism does not really allow for: the educated classes. But a repressive society demands conformity. The alternatives of departure or resistance are impossible. Uwe Tellkamp creates a monumental panorama of the declining GDR, in which the members of three generations drift towards the maelstrom of the 1989 revolution, in part actively, in part helplessly.

Marlis Thomas, Manager of the English branch of bookseller Hugendubel in Munich, said, " I imagine it will now be translated (into English), having won the prize will create an interest, and the themes would be interesting for readers in English."

Future of Publishing from a Publisher's perspective
In today's 'Welt' the founder of Saur Publishing, a German publisher that specializes in reference information for libraries, shares his view of the future of publishing.

He concludes that books which are for quick referral, encyclopedias, certain dictionaries, will in a foreseeable future, no longer be printed. However, he notes, it is already thirty-two years ago he first stated his belief that 'in ten years time, phone books would no longer be in print'. He admits he was too hasty, now "twenty percent of the quantity produced at that time, are printed today. But one day it will be the case." He believes it is different for books which must be studied in depth, whether specialist non-fiction, or literary fiction. Saur further talked about e-books and libraries. "Libraries do not buy individual e-books. They order by theme, and receive hundreds of titles simultaneously in a package from publishers," he said. "One should expect that e-book programs, even in mainland Europe, will increase enormously. And in countless non-fiction areas, will increase hundred-fold."

Paul Coelho concludes "you will be punished if you don’t."
Coelho closed by referring once again to Giordano Bruno, the heretic. "There’s an irony behind all this: Giordano Bruno was punished for voicing his ideas. In today’s world: you will be punished if you don’t."

His punishment refers to missing the opportunity to harness the power of the Internet to connect readers, authors and content, and he makes a challenge, "think about the future of the book, without (it) being a material product." And to consider, "another vital element – readers need to be involved."

Authors like Robert Saviano and Sherry Jones may well ask on this point what all authors should consider whilst setting up an online presence such as Coelho's, 'in what way, how much and with what effect?'

(Image © Paul Coelho. The full speech can be read on Paul Coelho's blog here.)

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