The Covid-19 pandemic has forced most book fairs to cancel or go online this year, and the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) will be held virtually from Saturday, November 28, to Sunday, December 6. FIL is the largest Spanish-language book fair in the world and the second-largest overall after Frankfurt. “We had every hope of holding the fair in person, but due to the pandemic, it is impossible,” says Marisol Schulz, director of FIL, via Zoom from her home office in Guadalajara. “Therefore we decided to bring the fair to everyone through our website, social media, and the television channel owned by the University of Guadalajara.”

FIL usually offers more than 3,000 events, but with expectation that the reading public and industry professionals will not be willing to sit in front of their screens day and night, the fair has slimmed to a more manageable 300 online events, many of them recorded. There will be 120 book readings and launches by authors from 38 different countries, including for books by three Nobel laureates. Authors presenting their works range from bold-faced names, such as Salman Rushdie, to new voices from Latin America and the Caribbean. The virtual edition will also include a selection of writers, scientists, and industry professionals, plus activities for children and young adults. Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates had been scheduled to be this year’s guest of honor, but that program has been moved to 2022; Peru remains the 2021 guest of honor.

Business networking, rights exchanges, and online book buying are being facilitated through FIL’s portal, Under the FIL Business tab, users can find the Contact’s Catalog, which helps people in the industry connect with each other. The Rights Center is also available virtually, and a professional networking and business program begins Sunday, November 29.

The biggest new undertaking for FIL has been the production of a virtual catalog of more than 90,000 books available from 1,000 publishers. Although the fair does not sell the books, it offers links to where books can be purchased in 24 countries. “We are very pleased to be able to bring an extensive offering of books to U.S. librarians,” Schulz says.

Schulz believes this year’s FIL can still have an impact. “What is most exciting is giving the audience, from anywhere in the world, the ability to enjoy the fair for free,” she says.

Guadalajara Named UNESCO World Book Capital, 2022

Since its founding in 1987, FIL has established Mexico’s second-largest city as a literary destination, and in acknowledgement of that role, UNESCO has designated Guadalajara as World Book Capital for 2022, the first city in Mexico to receive the honor. Starting in April 2022, the city will host a year-long program of activities celebrating books, reading, and libraries, with a thematic focus of eradicating violence and promoting peace.

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