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Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Literary Event, or the Festival of the Book

There is such a diverse community of literary bloggers and readers of litblogs, we thought we would put to you some questions concerning one of the ideas spawned in the scintillating Chapter One Hundred Four.

Though more book sales are occuring through the internet (and some predict a further doubling within the next five years), established book festivals still draw tens and hundreds of thousands of visitors. These are usually considered high-end affairs, and geared more toward the collector than the consumer. But they involve more than just the purchase of rare and antiquarian books, and this is how they trump the internet.

For all the hype surrounding the internet as a tool which helps bring people together and form a community, by its very nature there is a disconnect and isolation. Book festivals bring book-fanciers together to share a love of all things literary. They allow one to form a network of friends, colleagues, and connections, to bond. Just as there is a profound difference between the experience of reading a book in hand and reading one on the computer screen, so is there a difference between meeting someone through an electronic greeting and actually shaking someone's hand. Readers seem to love this sort of thing, as they turn out in droves to meet their favorite authors face to face, to get to know the person behind the words. Collectors distribute their want lists to hundreds of dealers quickly and easily. And dealers get a better feel for the market and the trends, and put their best book forward. Quite simply, a book festival is an event, like the World Series, or a traveling circus, The Ring cycle, or an art exhibition, something which the internet has yet to replicate.

So to the questions: If you have attended a book festival, what are the top three things you went for, to meet that special author, and perhaps have a book signed; to hunt through a huge selection of books for the elusive quarry; to hear a talk given by a publisher or writer; just to hang around with other book-fanciers; or something completely different? What three things are offered at a book festival that you could do without? The ubiquitous coffee bar, perhaps? And what three things do you wish were offered but aren't?

1 comment:

  1. In answer, the top three things I was looking for were in this order:

    1. Rare or antique books.

    2. Signed first editions.

    3. A bargain.

    There was plenty of both 1 and 2, but not much of 3 about!

    Regards John.