Inside Trading Cultures

How does the global trade in books work? What role do book fairs play? In this project citizen scientists participate in ethnographic fieldwork at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2017.

books, literature, ethnography

The project overview

Area of Science: Social Sciences
Location: Greater St. Pölten area
Used Devices: without PC/Mobile, with PC/Mobile
Equipment of citizen scientists: in best case PC/notebook with word processing tool and internet access
Activities of citizen scientists: sharing ideas, observing, collecting, photographing, mapping, analysing
Suitable for: Youngsters and adults
Project duration: 01.11.2016 - 31.12.2018
Time to join in: 01.03.2017 - 30.04.2018
Expenditure of time: Field work visit at Frankfurt Book Fair; two to three preparation workshops in spring 2017 + analysis and wrtiting workshops in autumn/winter 2017/18; time for reading, analysing and writing; public presentation of results

Project objective

Using ethnographic research methods such as participant observation the “Inside Trading Cultures” project explores the role of annual trade fairs in the global market for books. The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world’s largest and one of the most important trading events in the global book publishing industry.

Through the involvement of people with different horizons of knowledge and experiences in ethnographic fieldwork the project aims to achieve a multiplicity of perspectives on the practices and routines taking place at business-to-business book trade fairs. Beyond that, participating citizens are provided an exclusive insight into a usually non-accessible area of the everyday culture of international trade in book rights and licenses.

The project primarily addresses multipliers in the world of literature and books: local booksellers, librarians and teachers from the Greater St. Pölten area. Above, it is also directed at those with a close relation to reading, literature and books and at people interested in questions of how systems of trading and consuming media and cultural goods operate. That means, also passionate readers or committed pupils are invited to take part in this project. At the heart of the project is the fieldwork at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2017. The fieldwork team will be composed of nine citizen scientists and three social scientists.

If the number of people interested in participating in the project exceeds the nine positions available (note: travel to and participation at Frankfurt Book Fair is a requirement to participate in the project), a suitable and transparent way of selection will be communicated during the project information period. Diversity due to gender, age, background, etc. is key in selecting participants.


  • 8.3.2017, 5.00 pm: Info event at the FH St. Pölten
  • until 31.03.2017: Application phase for one of nine positions as a citizen scientist
  • Spring 2017: Planning meeting of the team and two workshops (“ethnographical field research“, “media industry & book“) at the FH St. Pölten
  • 11.-15.10.2017: Field research trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair
  • Autumn 2017: Two workshops (“analysis strategies“, “ethnographical writing“) at the FH St. Pölten
  • until 01.03.2018: Finalisation of individual field research reports
  • Spring 2018: Workshop & discussion of results; organisation of a public presentation and publication of results

The planned outcome of the project are twelve different ethnographic descriptions of the trade in books at the Frankfurt Book Fair of which three derive from the involved scientists and nine derive from participating citizen scientists. That means there are twelve different authors, which publish their respective texts in their name.

Participating and supporting institutions


FH-Prof. Dr. Andreas Gebesmair

Dr. Christoph Musik, Bakk. MA

Project website:

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