News | Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, 10/21/2020

Live from Berlin: The ‘Blue Sofa’ To Accompany The Frankfurt Book Fair

On the occasion of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the “Blue Sofa”, the joint authors’ forum hosted by Bertelsmann, ZDF, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, and 3sat, invited 67 authors to Bertelsmann Unter den Linden in Berlin last week and live-streamed the discussions to the internet. Following the event, some of the authors also took questions from readers in a live chat on Bertelsmann’s Facebook page.

The “Blue Sofa” has been an institution at the Frankfurt Book Fair for years. As one of the most prominent places where books are discussed during the fair, the joint authors’ forum hosted by Bertelsmann, ZDF, Deutschlandfunk Kultur and 3sat is a fixture of the fairgrounds. This year is no exception, even though everything is different from previous years due to the Corona pandemic. And so, this year the “Blue Sofa” hosted a hybrid program offering authors a stage to accompany this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. Besides three events at the “Open Books” book festival, which took place on site in Frankfurt am Main, the “Blue Sofa” live-streamed conversations with 67 authors over three days. These took place last week at Bertelsmann Unter den Linden in Berlin, where the ground-floor conference room was transformed into a TV studio fully equipped with lighting, camera, and sound technology. 

Renowned guests took their seats on the “Blue Sofa” from Wednesday to Friday, while adhering to a strict hygiene concept that had been meticulously planned in advance. Among the featured authors were the winner of the German Book Prize 2020, Anne Weber, Ulrike Draesner, Bernhard Schlink, Andreas Schäfer, and Volker Weidermann. Guests from other European countries included François Lelord, Alex Beer, Szczepan Twardoch, and J. J. Bola. Celebrities including Christian Berkel, Campino, Katja Ebstein, Wladimir Klitschko, Jan Weiler, Norbert Lammert, and Gerd Müller also presented their books on the “Blue Sofa.” Many of the authors were visibly grateful for the opportunity to talk about their books despite the Corona pandemic, and had lively conversations with the presenters about their works and the topics they address. Incidentally, to be able to maintain the minimum distance during the conversation, the sofa had been extended by a seating element. 

“Against the backdrop of the Corona pandemic, requirements for event organizers have increased considerably. However, as Europe’s largest media company, it was important for us to offer as many international authors as possible a platform during this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. And our efforts have paid off: never before have we had so much response from the authors and the participating publishers, as well as so much media attention,” says Karin Schlautmann, Head of Corporate Communications at Bertelsmann, commenting on the success of the digital format, which was also reflected in the number of viewers. The livestream broadcast by ZDF recorded some 9,000 visits per day. Recordings of the “Blue Sofa” conversations will be available on the ZDF website  over the next few days as well.

Following the discussions on the “Blue Sofa,” Bertelsmann invited some of the authors to a live chat with readers on Facebook. Campino, Jan Weiler, Düzen Tekkal, and Deniz Ohde, among others, spent ten minutes each answering the sometimes quite personal questions from fans, and were visibly excited to be able to have direct contact with their readers thanks to Bertelsmann’s Facebook event. The format gave rise to some very special moments. For example, German Book Prize winner Anne Weber took the opportunity to read a short excerpt from her book “Annette, ein Heldinnenepos” (Annette, a Heroine Epic), which she wrote in verse form. All videos can be viewed on Bertelsmann’s Facebook page  .

The Frankfurt Book Fair “Blue Sofa” marked the end of this year’s digital cultural offerings under the “Culture@Bertelsmann” umbrella. Besides  the Authors’ Forum, Bertelsmann had hosted various online activities by the Milan-based Ricordi Archive in the summer, as well as a digital edition of the “UFA Film Nights”.