Madrid’s Feria del Libro 2020 Is Underway in a Digital Rendition

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Normally among the busiest and best attended public-facing book fairs in Europe, the Feria del Libro de Madrid this year is online in a one-time October time frame.

Key artwork by Nuria Raiza for the 2020 Feria del Libro de Madrid, running through October 16 in its digital rendition

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Honoring Women ‘Without a Room of Their Own’
Among the many changes we’ve reported on in world book fairs this year, the 79th Feria del Libro de Madrid in mid-March did what looked like the right thing and postponed its 2020 evocation to October 2 to 18. The original plan had been for it to run May 29 to June 4, and organizers—by the time London Book Fair had been unable to go forward—saw the pandemic’s handwriting on the wall.

As it has happened, of course, the expected safe remove of four months later in the year has proved not to be safe.

BBC News has reported this weekend that more than 3 million citizens in Madrid have been placed under new restrictions, people being allowed to leave their home districts for “essential journeys” only. Bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m. And the city has tried to block the Pedro Sánchez government’s new regulations because of economic hardship. Intensive care units reportedly are filling fast with coronavirus COVID-19 patients.

Writing from Madrid this morning (October 5) for the Guardian, Sam Jones reports that a chronic staffing shortage in Spanish health care now is coming back into focus.

And at this writing, the 4:23 a.m. ET (0823 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 789,932 cases in Spain’s population of 47 million, with 32,086 fatalities. These numbers place Spain at eighth in the world for caseload and ninth in the world for reported COVID-19 deaths.

This book fair, first organized in 1933—and nowadays one of the largest of the Aldus Network of European fairs—is normally a sprawling public-facing display of some 500 publishers and booksellers’ wares in Madrid’s huge El Retiro Park. But this week and next, it has wisely retreated to the safety of the digital dynamic under the direction of Manuel Gil.

In 2021, organizers say, the goal is to “recover our natural environment” at Retiro but “without giving up the main strategies, tools, and technological advances now being explored online. This, of course, parallels what many trade show and fair organizers are realizing: However opulent a loss the El Retiro setting surely is—as in many of the world’s great fair events—there are digital gains being made that will be worth carrying forward, if nothing else for the expansion of audience that’s there for the asking online.

Programming Points

October 2019 in In El Retiro Park, the usual setting (in June) for Feria del Libro de Madrid. Image – iStockphoto: Page Light Studios

This year’s programming, then, has special emphases in place including:

  • The Ibero-American relationship
  • Feminism
  • Sustainability
  • The post-COVID outlook for the book business’ ecosystem and “energizing the reconstruction of the sector” in a national market that has been very hard hit by the pandemic

Operating primarily through the fair’s Facebook channel, with a YouTube repository and social push through Twitter and Instagram.

There are multiple participation features involved this year, not least a partnership with National Geographic. The media giant has worked with the fair since 1980 and this year is providing programming relative to its 150th anniversary.

Also working with the program, especially in terms of its online nature this year, are booktuber Sevas G. Mouret (The Collector of Worlds channel; Victor Arribas, who manages a much followed Instagram account; and writing podcaster Miguel de Lys.

Moderator Alexandre López Calvo of Lit Con Madrid is engaged for many parts of the program, and sees the digital fair as a chance to learn more about its platforms. “Where do these creators of content on the Internet come from and why are they on such diverse platforms?” he asks in prepared commentary. “What is the audience for this content? How do both the audience and the creators fit into the overall book ecosystem?”

Stressing gender equality in culture, the main artwork for the show—you see it at the top of our article—is illustrator Nuria Raiza’s work, appealing to “reading and writing as symbols of the future and empowerment” and with honor to “so many women, then and now, without a room of their own.”

Select Highlights of the Digital Program

At the 2018 iteration of the Feria del Libro in Madrid’s El Retiro Park. Image – iStockphoto: Angeluisma

“The World of Books After the Pandemic Cycle: Challenges and Uncertainties” is a three-part series of events, each with the input of an invited cohort of specialists. These sessions are hashtagged #GuruSpeak.

  • October 2
    7 p.m. CEST / 1700 GMT
    Book Fair Live is opened by Feria del Libro director Manual Gil
    Guests: Almudena Grandes, Jose Manuel Lucia, Marcelo Lujan, and moderation by David Felipe Arranz
  • October 5
    6 p.m. CEST / 1600 GMT
    Publishing Perspectives has been glad to contribute a lecture to this program, which also features speakers from the UK publisher Canelo and from Publishers Weekly.
    Lantia’s Enrique Parrilla is the presenter.
  • October 6
    6 p.m. CEST / 1600 GMT
    This time, Parrilla is joined by Dosdoce’s Javier Celaya–recently working with the launch of the Spanish digital subscription service Podimo–and Elena Niera.
  • October 7
    7 p.m. CEST / 1700 GMT
    From the Cervantes Institute, a discussion featuring Rosa Montero, Raquel Lanseros, and Pepe Larraz, with moderation by Ana Segura
  • October 8
    6 p.m. CEST / 1600 GMT
    “One Hundred Years of Aurora Bernárdez” honors the centennial of the birth of the Argentinian translator and writer who lived and worked in Paris with UNESCO until her death in 2014.
    With San Jorge University’s Carlos Pérez Caseiras, Ishmael Jorcano, Maria Pilar Cardos, Nacho Escuin
  • October 9
    7 p.m. CEST / 1700 GMT
    “Solidarity Workshop: From Girls to Legends–Adding Voices for Equality”
    Rocio Fernandez Treviño, Maria Lopez, Marian Moreno
  • October 12
    8 p.m. CEST / 1700 GMT
    “The World of Books After the Pandemic Cycle: Cultural Book Journalism After the Pandemic”
    From the Cervantes Institute, a discussion featuring Peio H. Riaño, Paula Corroto, and Ana Romero, with moderation by Lorenzo Silva
  • October 13
    4 p.m. CEST / 1400 GMT
    “Ibero-American Readings” with Paula Arcila
  • October 14
    7:30 p.m. CEST / 1730 GMT
    National Geographic Institute: Emilio López Romero and Celia Sevilla Sánchez
  • October 15
    4 p.m. CEST / 1400 GMT
    “Ibero-American Readings” with Alejandro Zambra
  • October 16
    7 p.m. CEST / 1700 GMT
    “The World of Books After the Pandemic Cycle: Post-Pandemic Book Policy”
    Emilio del Rio, general director of libraries, archives, and museums, Madrid City Council
    Elena Hernando Gonzalo, general director of cultural heritage, the Madrid Commune
    María José Gálvez Salvador, general director of books and the promotion of reading with the ministry of culture

Here’s an introductory video featuring the fair’s director, Manuel Gil:


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Spanish market is here, and more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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