In this pandemic, it has been a common practice to cancel in-person events altogether and move them virtually. However, this week came an instance where an event that was held virtually earlier this year is being cancelled altogether. I’m talking specifically in this case about BookExpo and BookCon.
According to Publishers Weekly, the show organizer, ReedPop, made the decision both in regards to the ongoing uncertainty of in-person events and also to explore new ways to meet the needs of the book community through both in-person and virtual events. The article also revealed how there have been discussions going on for a while now about restructuring the event, and withe the arrival of the pandemic, those discussions are now being put into action, but at the cost of these beloved events.
BookExpo and BookCon are basically the book versions of Comic-Con. Advanced readers copies of highly anticipated books are made available, panel discussions among different authors are held, and fun activities can be found all around, often centered on characters and universes from – you guessed it – books. I actually first became aware of BookExpo several months before I made the decision to start taking my writing more seriously, via this recap video of the 2012 rendition from John Green of VlogBrothers:
It’s an event I have since aspired to go to; both as an attendee and, hopefully as I grow and continue on as an author, as a guest and panelist too. But now after the rug has been pulled from underneath my feet, that dream has dashed with it.
The pandemic has been undeniably difficult on everyone, and with that, I see and acknowledge the challenges it has presented in industries where live events are a thing. I’ve seen the challenges at a deeper level, particularly within the film festival circuit. While vaccines are, at last, on their way, mystery still hangs heavily in the air as we go forward into 2021, not knowing when everyone will have access to the vaccines, what kind of side effects it will have, and when the all clear can be declared for in-person events to, at last, resume.
But to discontinue an annual event from happening ever again, it goes without saying I have a lot of mixed feelings about that. Aside from losing out on this experience that I’ll never get to have, it also feels almost like giving up on in-person events from happening ever again, even though we’re all aware that while it feels like the pandemic is going to go on forever, it’s not. There will come a day where it will be safe to gather again, without having to worry about things like masks and social distancing. We need to have events like BookExpo and BookCon around in order to do so. Besides, how often does one get to share the same space as other bookworms? For me personally, it doesn’t happen a lot.
On the other hand, as far as plans go for restructuring future events, I am happy to hear that ReedPop is hoping to do events that combine both in-person and virtual presence. If there’s one thing these virtual events throughout the year have taught us is that it is possible for events to be accessible to everyone, even if they’re not living within the area of it taking place. We have the technology to do that now, and the pandemic has forced us to recognize that. To resume having events where you have to be physically present to experience them is a norm that I don’t think is going to be socially accepted anymore, now that we know what we are capable of.
So I’m sad and disappointed by BookExpo and BookCon being discontinued. I really was looking forward to experiencing those events one day, and that can’t happen if they no longer exist. However, I am looking forward to hearing what ReedPop is going to cook up next to appease the book community, as we go forward into this brave, new, and eventually, post-pandemic future.
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