Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Guadalajara book fair abandons hopes for face-to-face event, goes virtual

The largest book fair in the Americas and the second largest in the world announced Friday that this year the event will be virtual.

In its 34th year, the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), the world’s largest Spanish-language book fair with an attendance last year of 828,000 people, will not be an in-person event due to coronavirus concerns despite organizers’ initial hopes.

“The restrictions on the organization of massive events and international travel, and the responsibility to protect the health of partners, visitors, participants and exhibitors, has led us to make the difficult decision,” fair president Raúl Padilla told a press conference.

“We are aware that digital does not replace face-to-face, since the main reason for the fair is meeting people, but through the digital format we will keep the FIL flame alive. This edition will be memorable,” he vowed.

Acclaimed Mexican writer Martín Solares congratulated FIL for having made a “wise decision” that “demonstrates their concern for readers and by being carried out virtually, they have opportunities to show a very creative path for other fairs in the world.”

Scheduled for November 28 through December 6, the fair will go ahead with all content disseminated digitally on the fair’s website, social media platforms, University of Guadalajara television and via public media throughout Mexico and Latin America. A full schedule of programming will be released at the end of October. 

Exhibitors who have already registered for the 2020 conference will benefit from free tools available on the FIL website to help virtual attendees browse titles available from publishing companies.

The FIL website will also introduce a business platform to help publishing professionals access conversations, statistics and other information related to the industry.

There will also be no country of honor this year as in previous years.

Moving to a virtual format means a loss of between 24 and 28 million pesos (US $1.1 to 1.3 million) for the FIL, but also affects the income of other visitor-dependent services already reeling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Of the 44 taxi drivers who once worked at the Expo Guadalajara taxi stand, only two remain, and they report fares have dropped by 75%.

A cafeteria near the fair will also suffer. Shift manager Álvaro Villaseñor said that income typically increases 200% during the days of the fair, an influx of cash that will be sorely missed in a difficult year.

The University of Guadalajara estimates that the 2019 FIL generated close to 8 billion pesos (US $370 million) in revenues for Guadalajara businesses, with 20% to 30% of that amount corresponding to tourism.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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