Fest Fight

Battling book fairs try to reach an accord

For the last two years, one of the brightest spots on the literary calendar has been the Brooklyn Book Festival, a bustling affair held in September at Brooklyn Borough Hall. One could attend appearances by Brooklyn writers like Colson Whitehead, Paula Fox, and Joshua Ferris or purchase books from the myriad small publishers—Ugly Duckling Presse, Hotel St. George—that have found refuge in this most literary of boroughs.

Earlier this year, New York Is Book Country, a similar showcase of writers and publishers usually held in Midtown, announced its return after a three-year absence. This should have been welcome news, especially in the face of depressing statistics about declining reading audiences. But BBF organizers were astounded when NYIBC moved its next festival from their originally announced July date to September 14, so that the two festivals would fall on the same weekend.

NYIBC organizers insisted that this was nothing more than coincidence and that the summer date was unfavorable to sponsors who feared holding the event during the dog days of July. But BBF did not buy the explanation; Johnny Temple, the event’s literary editor, told Publishers Weekly that he was “flabbergasted,” and that while his event “totally encapsulates” the audience of NYIBC, it was still a faux pas for NYIBC to hold their festival on the same weekend. The office of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, which organized BBF, sent a letter to Nielsen Business Media, which now operates NYIBC, asking for a date change.

On December 17, representatives from both festivals met at Brooklyn Borough Hall to discuss the issue. Nielsen spokesperson Marisa Grimes said the two sides are looking for ways to “select a date that is best for both events and enhances the literary calendar of the city.” But the dispute had yet to be settled. Temple declined comment on the Borough Hall summit, but noted that “scheduling is the only issue” and that he hopes NYIBC will “take into account the values of literary culture” in trying to resolve the scheduling disagreement.

 
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