“For seven years, thousands of readers have been coming to the downtown Central Library and Southwest School of Art to experience the Book Festival. In 2021, we’re coming to you.”
For the first time ever, the San Antonio Book Festival (SABF), formerly associated with the San Antonio Library Foundation but now an independent nonprofit, will take place entirely online and run for three full days, April 9 through April 11, 2021. Pending the pandemic numbers in 2021, the festival could be somewhat hybrid, with select in-person, socially distanced events, which will be announced at a later date.
“While the uncertainty of the coming months drove our decision, we are embracing the potential to reach a wider audience and elevate the book festival’s reputation on a national scale,” said Lilly Gonzalez, SABF’s executive director. “Are we disappointed? Of course. It’s another year that we don’t get to celebrate books in person with our festival friends. But the safety of our attendees, writers, moderators, and volunteers is our first priority. If we have to be virtual, we’re focusing on ways to make the online experience as close to the real thing as we can.”
After conferring with colleagues at other book festivals around the country, including the Portland Book Festival, the L. A. Times Festival of Books, and the Texas Book Festival, San Antonio organizers chose an online platform called Accelevents. Accelevents will allow them to offer book clubs, groups of friends, and classes the opportunity to chat privately among themselves during an event. There will also be a “networking” capability to mimic the in-person festival, where attendees can meet one another and talk about which events they’re attending and enjoying.
SABF Literary Director Clay Smith, who oversees the author-selection process, told San Antonio Report that the 2021 festival will feature about seventy-five authors, both local and national. While names won’t be released until February, a virtual festival may make it easier to nail down big-name writers. “Famous authors are more likely to go online than fly in from New York or Los Angeles,” Smith said. “But some writers are comfortable in the virtual world, and some are not, so it’s complicated. At least by the time of our festival, authors will have had a year to learn the basics of logging on and how to light themselves. Most of them are pretty game, so yeah, I’m looking at headliners right and left.”
Effective 2021, locally owned and operated Nowhere Bookshop will be the festival’s official bookseller, a change from previous years when that role was filled by Barnes & Noble. The book festival’s singular fundraiser, the Book Appétit Literary Feast featuring novelist Amor Towles, has been rescheduled to April 8, 2021 and will also be held online.