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This report is taken from PN Review 49, Volume 12 Number 5, May - June 1986.

Frankfurt Book Fair 1985 Michael Hulse

This year's customary welter of Frankfurt statistics produced some figures in a front-page report in Die Zeit, by Fritz J. Raddatz, which I found nowhere else and which I offer now in the hope that they will cause others as much agreeable puzzlement as they did me. Raddatz reports the West German book-trade Börsenblatt as claiming that 94% of private households in West Germany possess books. Admirable. He reports the same source as saying that the average number of books owned per household is 186. Admirable once again. And how oddly exact. And how on earth do they know? Raddatz then reports that 54% of the inhabitants of the Federal Republic buy at least one book per year. At this point the wretched statistics finally made me sit up, and, imagining man's normal span to be three score and ten and active book buying to begin at age sixteen, I could see that after 54 years 54% of West German households would possess at least 54 books apiece. To be purchasing for half a century and still fall clearly below a third of the average holdings not across a mere 54% of the population but across the entire 100% is a strikingly sad non-achievement, and left me intrigued by what the gap between the two statistics might imply. Either there are utterly colossal private libraries somewhere, housed in vast cathedrals of bibliophile devotion; or the average book holdings across the whole German population must indeed at some earlier date ...


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