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World's largest book fair opens with emphasis on digital future

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October 19, 2000 


FRANKFURT (AP) - Authors, publishers and librarians packed the convention halls Wednesday as the Frankfurt Book Fair opened for its 52nd year, aiming to take the printed word into the digital age.

Nearly 7,000 publishers from 107 countries are at the fair, Europe's most important gathering of the literary trade. This year's featured country is Poland, a poignant choice because of past Polish-German enmity and the Nazi murder of Polish intellectuals during World War II.

Some 380,000 books, graphic artworks and multimedia products are being rolled out at the dizzying fair, which ends Sunday. Nearly 60 different languages are represented, and 90,000 new titles will make their debut.

But perhaps the biggest buzz is a new emphasis on electronic publishing and e-books - books published in digital format for viewing on a screen rather than on a printed page.

The idea is to snag readers away from computer games, videos and television, which are taking an ever-increasing slice of people's leisure time. An entire convention hall is set aside for CD-ROMs, database contents, books published on the Internet and careers in digital publishing, such as online editors.

An electronic media center opened Wednesday as a marketplace for e-publishers to meet up with online editors, writers and computer experts.

"Every fourth exhibit has an electronic media display," said book fair director Lorenzo Rudolf, adding that a dlrs 100,000 prize would be awarded to the best e-book. Comic books are another highlight this year as the fair tries to move broadly beyond the traditional concept of the book.

While the fair opened to the literary trade Wednesday, the general public is admitted only Saturday and Sunday.

The fair's 20,000-mark (dlrs 8,700) Peace Prize is being awarded Sunday to Algerian author Assia Djebar, 64, who has written about women in Arabic society and her country's bloody history. She lives mostly in France.

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