FRANKFURT, West Germany — Besides the inevitable traffic jams and packed hotels and the high pressure of international deal-making, the 38th Annual Frankfurt Book Fair opens today against a backdrop of international tension, religious controversy and the heightened excitement of a major publishing takeover.
Among early arrivals seeking preliminary contacts before the official six-day event, the significant news was last Friday's announcement of the purchase by Bertelsmann, the German publishing conglomerate, of the American publishing firm, Doubleday & Co.
American publishers, many of whom learned the news after leaving their New York offices, conceded that the acquisition will represent a sizable foreign impact in American publishing. By acquiring Doubleday, Bertelsmann, which already owns Bantam, the mass-market paperback publishing house, acquires the Doubleday subsidiary Dell, another mass-market house. A question on some publishing minds is whether both houses will be allowed to continue in competition under their now common management. A parallel question touches hard-cover publishing at the two houses, for under Bertelsmann management, Bantam began a small but extremely successful program of hard-cover publishing, its most notable success being "Iacocca."
An equally prominent topic here was the clash of the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashana, on Saturday with the fair's schedule. Putnam's and a handful of smaller American publishing companies and agents are not attending the fair in protest of what they say is management indifference to their religious obligations. Among Jewish publishing representatives here, there is a marked feeling of discomfort. "I will be working on Rosh Hashana," said Harcourt Brace Jovanovich's subsidiary rights director Carol Lazare, "but as a Jewish person in publishing, it's a very awkward situation to be in. If it's within the possibility of human planning, I hope it won't happen again."