Ljubljana – The Slovenian Book Fair will get under way on Monday, this time moving online for the first time in history. The week-long event will feature a virtual fair presenting 97 publishers, while the schedule also includes over 100 online events. Spain is the honorary guest country this year.
The 36th iteration of the country’s main book event, which is usually hosted by the Cankarjev Dom arts centre, will open with a literary event whose keynote will be delivered by Niko Grafenauer. The poet is celebrating his 80th birthday, which will be marked with a special ceremony on Tuesday.
The virtual fair segment will run under the slogan Apart But Together Nonetheless. The Chamber of Book Publishers has joined forces with Cankarjev Dom to organise an online exhibition that will include the possibility to buy books and a diverse programme for the general and expert public.
Exhibitors will be able to present themselves in an e-catalogue and on a calendar of virtual events. The visual design is based on an illustration made by Chinese-Slovenian artist Wang Huiqin for a book about traveller and author Alma Karlin (1889-1950). Originally the fair, if held at Cankarjev Dom, was meant to be dedicated to Karlin.
The featured Slovenian city at the fair this year is Novo Mesto, while Spain is the honorary guest country. The programme includes debates with Spanish authors Olga Novo and Juan Bonillo, both recently celebrated with national honours for poetry and prose. Publisher Družina will moreover host an online talk with Catalan writer Pilar Rahola.
Moreover, in cooperation with French Institute and publisher Mladinska Knjiga, a talk will be organised with French author David Diop, while the Italian Institute and publisher Totaliteta will host Italian author Paolo Cognetti.
Several more foreign authors will participate at the fair, including Ruediger Wischenbart, Carlo Carenho, Arunas Gudinavičius, Alma Čaušević, Miguer Barrero, Tore Slaatta and Helge Ronning.
A number of awards will be conferred, including the award for the book of the year, for the best debut, and the Schwentner Award for exceptional contributions to publishing.
According to the head of the fair’s managing board, Zdravko Kafol, this is the first time in the fair’s history that the organisers were faced with the dilemma of what kind of a fair to hold. Originally the idea was to have a hybrid event, intertwining online and live events but this became impossible as the epidemiological situation deteriorated.
Kafol said their role models had been the Göteborg and Frankfurt fairs, although the latter received EUR 6 million to develop a digital platform. What has been conceived as the biggest Slovenian online fair, will now host more than 100 events prepared by 97 publishers on a special YouTube channel.
Kafol told the STA the organisers expected at least as many visitors as the live event attracts and 20-30% of the “live” sales. Given that the participants have no other costs, this would be a “good result”, he said, noting that a recent Croatian fair without any accompanying events exceeded all expectations by generating a third of “live” sales.
Kafol’s message to the book industry is to join forces in what is arguably the toughest time in the last 50 years. Bookshops were closed for 50 days and they are closed again, 600 booksellers are on furlough, he said.
“Online sale is becoming increasingly important but it cannot replace the loss of revenue. In the first, spring wave of the epidemic, the industry lost EUR 2.5 million, about 160,000 fewer books were sold. Only through cooperation and connectivity, joint projects, can we be stronger,” he said.