Fiera del libro 2009

WESS Newsletter

Fall 2009, Vol. 33, No. 1

Fiera del Libro 2009: Breaking Out of One’s Shell at the Turin Book Fair

A report with photos by Claude Potts & Sarah G. Wenzel
The 22nd Fiera del Libro was held in Turin, Italy from May 14-18, 2009. This was the last Fiera to be held, as henceforth the book fair will called the Salone Internazionale del Libro (May 13-17, 2010), the original designation it bore at its founding in 1988. Jeffry Larson last reported on this fair in the Fall 2000 WESS Newsletter.
As ever, travel can be a challenge…


My trip was a less-than-optimal but an un-problematic voyage (3 different planes, run by a total of 4 different airlines, 2 busses, 2 trains). In all, the most difficult part was actually finding the hotel, which was tucked back from the street but most conveniently located to the Fiera itself.

My own journey from Berkeley took 33 hours from door-to-door, and involved 1 bus, 1 commuter train (BART), 1 airport shuttle, 2 airplanes, 1 leisurely layover lunch in Geneva, 3 trains, and 1 taxi before I arrived safely at my hotel in Turin.

We had several primary reasons for going to the Fiera: to learn more about Italian publishing, to see the latest offerings, and to get a sense of trends in the Italian book trade that may impact our acquisitions. We each had our own agendas, as well…


In addition to all of the above, as a guest of the Italian Trade Commission & International Book Forum (IBF), I also wanted to participate fully in interacting with the other delegates attending the fair. I was able to learn a great deal about European publishing trends and interests, and build upon the knowledge I’d gathered at other fairs. Furthermore, because those who were here to buy or sell books and rights offered insights into Italian publishing.

I had my own table in the IBF area and met with a variety of interesting delegates from different publishers or agencies, including:
Avagliano Editore, Sperling & Kupfer Editori, RCS LIBRI SPA/BOMPIANI, Agenzia Servizi Editoriali, Bertrand Brasil, Tumbona Ediciones, Lavieri Edizioni, Literarische Agentur Mertin, edizioni Pendragon srl.
I was a bit surprised to find myself meeting with delegates who were not from Italy, and had very informative and rewarding conversations with them. Particularly interesting from the collections perspective were Lavieri Edizioni and Tumbona Ediciones who were kind enough to give me some books to take back to the Library.

While I didn’t have my very own table in the IBF area but I hardly had time to rest – so much to see, so little time. Fueling myself up with cappuccini and fresh squeezed succhi d’arancia every couple of hours, I was able to make some fantastic discoveries at the Fiera. Here are a few: edizioni e/o, Fazi Editore, Edizoni Casagrande, Edizioni di Pagina, Transeuropa Edizioni, Edizioni Nottetempo, Tittivillus Edizioni, Fandango Libri, Neri Pozza Editore, Prospectiva Editrice, Edizioni Pantarei, Sandro Teti Editore, Round Robin, and Ancora del Mediterraneo.

Some tried and trusted included Bollati Boringhieri Editore, Editori Laterza, Sellerio Editore Palermo, Adelphi Edizioni, Marsilio Editori, Garzanti Libri, Nino Aragno Editore, Baldini-Castoldi Dalai, Viella Casa Editrice, Feltrinelli, and Giulio Einaudi editore. What a delight it was to peruse through these publisher’s stands – backlists and novità all on display!

Nutrimenti is an independent publishing house established in Rome in 2001 that I only recently became aware of. They are known for their collections of contemporary fiction and socially critical works like Federalismo criminale (2009), Un’anima per il Pd (2009), and Governor spot (2005) as well as best-selling English to Italian translations like Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father.

The Fiera was held in the Lingotto, the former Fiat factory orginally built by Giacomo Mattè Trucco in 1923 and fabulously re-purposed by Renzo Piano in the early 1980s. The book fair itself was comprised of four “pavilions” (51,000 square meters) holding more than 1,400 publishers. At the close of the Fiera, 307,650 visitors had attended, an increase of 5 percent over 2008As briefly excerpted from the Salone’s preliminary closing report of May 18.. This official count does not include, of course, the distinguished guests at the Caffè letterario (pictured below).

To give even a vague sense of the numbers of people at the Fiera…

Io gli altri
The Fiera’s theme this year was “Io, gli altri: occasioni per usire dal guscio” the others: an opportunity to break out of one’s shell. Reflecting this focus on identity, alterity, and representation, internationally reknowned writers from outside of Europe such as Salman Rushdie, Vandana Shiva, and Ohran Pamuk headlined the most popular panels. The honorary guest was Egypt (offerings included everything from cultural and historical displays to chocolate with hieroglyphs). Coinciding with the book fair, Turin’s Museo Nazionale del Cinema screened a retrospective of Youssef Chahine’s films.
Also associated with the theme of the Fiera was a parallel and now permanent program that began in 2005 entitled Lingua Madre tongues which showcases authors from all over the world who compose in their original languages. The project develops the themes of memory, the oral tradition and endangered languages. In the picture to the right is Lebanese writer and journalist Hoda Barakat speaking with Charif Majdalani. Prominent authors and musicians in this year’s program hailed from Armenia, Saudia Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, Morrocco, Albania, Georgia, Somalia, Palestine, India, the Basque provinces of Spain and France, and various regions of Italy.
After the fair, the third Quaderno del Salone Internazionale del Libro was announced. This volume includes ‘the most interesting’ presentations from the Fiera, including those of Orhan Pamuk, Ala al-Aswani, Donald Sassoon, Anna Ferruta and Danilo Mainardi.


The stand for Minoranze Linguistiche was very interesting to me, and I brought home a selection of materials in Ladino.
I was also intrigued by the booth opposite, Mesogea which focused on the Mediterranean. The two illustrated the juxtaposition of the community-based linguistic minority and the greater Mediterranean cultural experience — or, in some ways, “Io, gli altri” which was the theme of the fair.
Although my focus is on literature and cultural studies, I took note of titles that I’d recommend to my colleagues.


Without too much guilt, I admit that Tittivillus Edizioni‘s live merry-go-round was the most enjoyable stand. While someone gently pushed the amusement park relic in circles, I and others thumbed through the publisher’s books on theater, performance, film, and poetry, taking note of titles. To name a few, Il teatro di strada in Italia (2008), Futuroteatro: saggi sul teatro futurista (2009), Teatro e bambini di guerra (2009) and nearly everything by film/theater scholar Andrea Mancini.

Gialli meets Fumetti
There were a large number of interesting literary presses and we both appreciated some of the mystery and crime-fiction novels on display, particularly…

Fumetti (Sarah)Gialli (Claude)

I hoped to find graphic novels for the collection, since I find it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff from slips. I was able to compile a list of books to add to the collection, as well as one of authors or publishers to watch.
One of my favorites was Lavieri and I’ll be adding to our collection La storia di Mara by Paolo Cossi; Bye bye jazz by Scornaienchi + Rak & Scop ; and Yggdrasill by Gianluca Maconi).

Other giallo writers to look out for in the mega-popular genre of giallo included Bruno Coppola (Rizzoli), Maurizio de Giovanni (Fandango), Massimo Carlotto (edizioni e/o), Giovanni Biondillo (Guanda), Marcello Fois (Einaudi), Patrick Fogli (Piemme), Andrea Fazioli ( Guanda), Mario Falcone (Fazi), Claudio Maria Messina (Robin Edizioni), Luca Rinarelli (Robin Edizioni), and Giancarlo de Cataldo (Einaudi). One novità worth picking up was Maurizio Testa’s Dizionario atipico del giallo (Roma: Cooper, 2009) which also happens to have its own Facebook page. A few newish and innovative publishers that caught my attention because of works that merged the two distinct genres of giallo and romanzo grafico (graphic novel), generally known as fumetti, were Joker Edizioni, Minimum Fax, Perdisapop, and Purple Press.

Being accosted by children was a frequent experience, and we would have been glad for just one “professional day” in the fair. It would also have been useful to have more sound-proofing around presentations, since attempts at trying to hear sessions (professionally-oriented, author readings, and talks) frequently resulted in the speakers being drowned out by the ambient noise from the fair – or the other audience members talking on their cell phones. Nevertheless, we did manage to hear some amazing presentations.

Translation Rights (Sarah)
L’europa non fa più sconti: la legge del libro all’estero (Claude)

International translation rights was a new topic to contemplate, and my newly gained knowledge about the marketplace will help me understand the book trade and the choices that are made.
The goal of publishers is to acquire all of the rights at once. This system developed during the 1990s and a “hyper active” or even “hyped” market. Now the market feels quiet, which in these terms is not good. They pointed out that sometimes bestsellers in translation don’t come from the US or UK market, or go through independent publishers, e.g. Stieg Larsson (Personally, I can’t wait until the 3rd volume comes out in English) & the Elegance of the Hedgehog.
There’s been a reassessment of who is bought and which rights are bought. The US and UK markets are seen as more open to translations then they have been, but it’s still at the level of small gestures. In contrast to the low percentage of translations into English (ca 3%), Holland’s market is 60% translations. Translations from and into Spanish and Chinese are growing markets.
It seems to be a question of faith in authors, and the decline of the model of dedicated publishing of an author the publisher loves until a book is a big success.
Electronic publishing was a hot topic for the IBF delegates, and the presentation on translation rights rapidly segued into a discussion of the future of publishing and the importance of the electronic.
In general, delegates were pleased at the delay of the Google settlement. The panel identified issues that are slowing the European adoption of electronic books, including the fixed-price laws in some countries.
The panel expects the price of electronic books to decline as consumers recognize that they’re not buying a physical object (along the lines of the evolution of the music industry). They see teen girls as the next hot electronic book market when Apple creates a ‘pretty reader.’ They see that books allow for value-added material, and that the publishing industry needs to not follow the music industry’s example. The concluding sentiment was that there is no point in worrying about the changes that electronic publishing is bringing, but that they should be embraced.



This was one of the livelier talks I caught: a panel on fixed book pricing with André Schiffin (The New Press), Liana Levi (Éditions Liana Levi), Jessica Saenger (Börsenverein Des Deutschen Buchhandels), and K. Van Guluk (Netherlands) moderated by Marco Zapparoli, editor of Marcos y Marcos (Milan). Schiffrin, who was also promoting the Italian translation of his latest book A Political Education: Coming of Age in Paris and New York, linked the decline of independent bookstores in the US and UK to an absence of fixed-price or prezzo fisso laws for new books. He cautioned that without independent bookstores, there is little hope for independent publishers.
Liana Levi, who is also a representative for small publishers on the Syndicat National de l’Édition in France, spoke of how the arrival of the first FNAC megastore led to the protective measure of fixed-pricing for books less than ten years later. Jessica Saenger spoke about the necessity of fixed-pricing for books in Germany where 6% of the publishers dominate 85% of the market. She explained that “books are goods marketed for profit, but they also represent a cultural commodity where production and distribution must be preserved.”
Zapparoli warned that Italy may suffer the same fate as the US and the UK if it does not take measures to enact fixed-pricing legislation: “The huge growth of the power of large chain bookstores, the growing power of supermarkets and the Internet have quickly destabilized the whole publishing market. To the point that, today, the same chains and the major publishing houses are in crisis, not to mention publishing and independent bookstores, not far from extinction.”

Incubatore = Incubator
In line with this year’s egg/eggshell imagery was an area of the Fiera devoted to publishers who have only been in business for less than 24 months. Launched in 2007 with the objective of facilitating the start-up of newly-founded Italian publishers, it is a unique opportunity for both fledgling publishers and for those seeking out new talent. This year’s Incubatore provided a generous exhibit space for 37 new and independent publishers to showcase their work – something rarely seen at large-scale book fairs like this one. There was also a Spazi Incontri where lesser-known authors like Mario Varine (Negretto Editore), Maximilien Rouer and Anne Gouyon (Lepre Edizioni), and Corrado Farina (Zero91) presented their books and dialogued with figures from the publishing and literary scenes. It would be good if more fairs showed this sort of attention to such start-up presses. Here’s the complete list of this year’s Incubatore publishers with brief descriptions.

One particularly intriguing publisher edizioni 18:30 publishes (very) short essays or fiction, each in its own little volume (and under Creative Commons license). Guardi fuori: quell’abbraccio cosi by Roberto Pillico (to the right) in the series Gay Tags is one such work. The Incubatore provided a breath of fresh air in a publishing landscape where more and more of the country’s 4,000 plus publishers are being consolidated into the hands of powerful commercial groups (not unlike Germany, Spain, Latin America, and the United States). In Italy, three editorial groups control the majority of the publishing market: Mauri Spagnol, Mondadori, and RCS Libri. While smaller publishers can be found throughout the Italian peninsula and on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, distribution remains a challenge despite the miracle of the Internet.

Dove sono le case editrici universitarie?
The fair was very oriented toward the general public (thus the lack of a “professional” day), which resulted in low attendance from the few university presses that exist in Italy. While many publishers are listed under the rubric of “editorial universitaria,” only a handful were what Americans consider “university presses:” Centro editorial e librario – Università della Calabria, ISIAO (Istituto italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente), Firenze University Press, Kore University Press, PLUS (Pisa University Press), Vita e pensiero (pubblicazioni dell’Università Cattolica). More interesting academic titles could be found at the UTET (Unione tipographico editrice torinese) stand or other publishers that have an academic market.The poor showing of university presses may also reflect the fact that they are less important in the grand scheme of Italian publishing than are similar entities in other countries. In fact, the ability to identify Italian “academic” presses and monographs requires a level of knowledge that can only be gained through experience or from attending trade events, such as book fairs (or a combination of the two). Few librarians might know, for instance, that Editori Laterza works closely with l’Universita degli Studi di Bari or of other such partnerships between public universities and private publishers.
Closing Words
Despite travel difficulties, a credit card being cancelled mid-fair (long story), nearly getting run down by an inebriated Vespa rider (longer story), loss of a front tooth (even longer story), and a continual realization that proficiency in Italian biblio-vocabulary doesn’t get one very far in purchasing postage stamps, the opportunity to attend the Fiera del Libro in Turin was invaluable to us both. The chance to learn from colleagues in the book world, take in the breadth of contemporary Italian publishing in the space of a few days, discover materials whose value is not well communicated through two-dimensional bibliographic slips, and glimpse new trends in the market, was well worth the trip to this marvelous book fair.


Claude Potts is the Librarian for Romance Language Collections at UC Berkeley and Sarah G. Wenzel is the Bibliographer of English & Romance Literatures at University of Chicago. In the Fall 2009 WESS Newsletter, Claude also reports on the Tipoteca Italiana located in the Italian province of Treviso.