European publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair were battling a difficult year, but determined to hold strong.
Greece, in the midst of painful reforms and cuts to stave off bankruptcy, is in fighting mode and has boosted the number of publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair by a fifth, its official here said.
But it has also halved the size of its national stand compared to last year with publishers opting to be part of that to save costs rather than exhibiting individually, Catherine Velissaris, director of Greece's National Book Centre said.
"They have a lot of meetings. They have no intention of throwing in the towel. They are there, they are going to fight," she told AFP. "Oh for an end to the crisis! I won't hide from you the fact that we are shattered," she said adding that even wars did not generally last as long as the six years of recession that Greece has suffered.
Greek publishers could survive a 20-25 percent fall in sales but are being suffocated by banks' failure to lend while also not being paid by booksellers who have their own loans to pay back, she said.
Spanish publishers, among the more than 7,000 exhibitors at the annual five-day event for insiders from the book and multimedia industries, paint a similar picture of falling sales and shop closures. But Spain's Federation of Editors is trying to shore up the future for publishers as the country faces a question mark over whether it will need bailing out and anti-austerity protestors take to the streets.
Director Antonio Maria Avila told AFP by telephone from Madrid through an interpreter that they were talking to the government to urge it to reform intellectual property rights to help fight literary piracy. Other steps include calling for VAT on Internet-bought books to be cut from 21 percent, as well as changes in the regional states to enable better distribution and greater variety of books, he said.
Ofelia Grande, of Madrid-based Siruela publishers, said they had taken the initiative to publish story-driven "upmarket commercial fiction" in a departure from its usual more prestigious literary writers. Sales are down about 10 percent for the first half of 2012 compared to the same period a year earlier, she said adding that the possibility of selling to Latin American countries helped but was not enough.
"Many bookstores have closed in Spain, mainly the independent ones, and those independent ones are the most important for the literary independent publishing houses like us," she said. "We have to work more and more and more to have not even the same results, just to be alive, to maintain (ourselves)," she added.
Paulo Oliveira, chief executive of Portuguese publishing house Grupo Betrand Circulo, said they were probably publishing a third fewer new titles a year but were trying to hone their selection to pick the best ones. And he said having weighed up whether to come to the Frankfurt show, his company had decided it was worth the investment. "The Portuguese companies who are trying to prepare the future are here. We are facing the crisis, it's a problem, but we are looking into the future, preparing the future," he said.
Katja Boehne, the fair's press officer, said they had been pleasantly surprised that attendance figures had remained steady and saw it as a "symptom of the crisis" that exhibitors felt the need to keep in touch with business partners.