How Can Book Festivals Integrate E-books Into Their Events?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

What are the “best practices” for book festivals to work with e-books?

By Edward Nawotka

It’s summer (in the northern hemisphere) and winter (in the southern hemisphere) — the season of the book festivals is upon us, as discussed in today’s feature story.

hay festival photo by Finn Beales

Hay Festival, photo by Finn Beales

It seems that across much of the developed world nearly every community has a book festival or two on its calendar throughout the year. If there’s proof that people are committed to books and reading, the popularity of book festivals is it.

As someone who spent a year managing the literary side of a book festival — in my case, the 2004 Texas Book Festival in Austin — I can attest to the tremendous work that goes into putting such an event together. In the year I organized the TBF, we had more than 200 authors across a variety of categories, from politics to cooking, and the logistics alone were a full time job (not to mention it was taking place a week before the hotly contested US presidential election).

Many festivals have arrangements with local booksellers to sell books on site. In the case of the Texas Book Festival we had a partnership with Barnes & Noble to be the official bookseller, with a percentage of their sales going back into the coffers of the Festival, which was then donated as charity to the Texas Public Library system.┬áMore recently, the Texas Book Festival has been working with a local Austin e-book conversion and distribution company LibreDigital to offer “previews” of featured author’s books on its web site.

Today, as e-books grow in popularity, book festivals will be forced to confront the fact that it may often be easier for readers to quickly download a copy of a title they are interested in reading, rather than perhaps waiting in line to pay a higher price for a hardcover book. That is, of course, only the case for those readers who want to forgo having their book signed — which is one of the big appeals of book fairs.

That said, what are the “best practices” for book festivals to work with e-books? How can book festivals integrate “e” into the mix of titles on offer and, generally speaking, the attractions?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business exclusively since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.