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Book Fairs in 2021?
The likelihood of the return of antiquarian book fairs as we knew them is fraught with uncertainty as of this writing. For one thing, they were already in trouble before the Corona virus hit. And, as everyone knows, Amazon has been wildly successful in destroying independent bookshops as we knew them, along with many of the traditional retail stores of cities large and small throughout the country. To help fill that lacunae antiquarian book fairs, for the past several decades, had provided the traveling road show, the moveable feast of bookish delights where bibliophiles discovered material they never knew existed while meeting up with old friends and colleagues - in short, a wonderful excuse for a road trip. Book fairs, however, are expensive to produce, raising the costs to exhibitors. Add to this the reality that attendance has been falling off in recent years with the resulting decline in bookseller participation. (our own local antiquarian book fair was discontinued many years ago, due to lack of interest)
While the Corona virus may have put paid to most antiquarian book fairs, especially the smaller regional ones, the rise of "virtual" antiquarian book fairs has seen some success. When we think "virtual" these days, many of us with Zoom-fatigue may understandably be turned off by the idea of more of the same. Not really the case, as I discovered, when I logged on to Gadsden's Antiques, Collectibles, Rare Books & Ephemera Show late last year. There were both Canadian and American exhibitors with small, but carefully curated offerings of well catalogued and stunningly illustrated (images of the) books. Easy to navigate with plenty of ways to contact the sellers, and all taking place within a few days. As the items sold, the fact was indicated, and anyone who snoozed, lost.
Our own "Biblio Paradiso" is a low cost alternative, with exhibitors linking to their own online platforms (web sites) where books are catalogued and illustrated according to each bookseller's own standard of description. All sponsors and supporters of this magazine are eligible for a free listing.