For the second time in two weeks, the new coronavirus has forced the cancellation of a major international book publishing conference. Organizers of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair announced Wednesday that the 2020 edition of the show was canceled. In early March, Reed Exhibitions, organizers of the London Book Fair, called off that event one week before the fair was set to run, March 10–12.
Before canceling the children’s fair, BolognaFiere, which runs the show, had rescheduled the event set for the city in northern Italy from March 31–April 2 to May 4–7 following an outbreak of the virus in that region last month. The bid to buy time with the hope the virus might subside did not work, as the entire country was placed in lockdown and cases of people with the virus continued to increase, as did deaths associated with the virus.
Antonio Bruzzone, general manager of BolognaFiere, said that the spread of the virus within Italy and around the world was too much for the organizers to overcome. “In these days we are dealing with a genuine emergency,” he said in a statement, “one that involves not only our country but, unfortunately, has an international dimension. The need to contain the spread of the Coronavirus has made it necessary to introduce strict limits on travel between countries, thus having a significant effect on all forms of business. The trade fair system, which is based on face-to-face meetings and networking, has had to deal with an unprecedented situation: the aim, now more than ever, is to support businesses and ensure the best circumstances for the repositioning of individual initiatives in light of this situation.”
Pointing out that 90% of fair exhibitors come from abroad, Bruzzone said, “It would have been unthinkable for us to propose an event at which participants would not be able to take part with the necessary peace of mind and in the atmosphere of friendship and collaboration that characterizes this great international community that each year comes together in Bologna.”
The decision to cancel the show came after a host of large publishers from around the world, including Hachette, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster, said they had dropped plans to attend the fair.
Bruzzone added that fair organizers are “already working on a series of new projects and initiatives to unite this great international community, whose faith in us has enabled the Book Fair to become the global reference event for the sector.”
The coronavirus has not spared events planned for the U.S. The National Book Critics Circle canceled both its finalists’ reading planned for Mar. 11 and its awards ceremony set for Mar. 12. Both events were set to take place at New York City’s New School. The NBCC did go forward with choosing this year’s winners (see p. 10), and the annual gala benefit and reception is rescheduled for Sept. 12.
Among the many other events that have been canceled or postponed was the 2020 Texas Library Association annual conference, which had been set for March 24–27 in Houston. In a statement, the TLA executive board said it had decided “to transition to a streamlined, virtual event and cancel TLA 2020 activities in Houston to protect the health and safety of our members, attendees, sponsors and exhibitors.” The statement added that the logistics of a virtual event were, at press time, still under discussion. Prior to the TLA announcement, publishers and other TLA exhibitors began pulling out of the event in large numbers.
The Independent Book Publishers Association canceled its Publishing University 2020, which was scheduled for April 3–4 in Redondo Beach, Calif.; Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt was scheduled to be the featured speaker.