Brooklyn Book Festival, the largest free literary event in NYC, launched virtually for the first time today and, participants and organizers have reported a mix of positive and negative experience. The good news is that the virtual format increases the level of global participation as it is easier to attend the festival online than in-person.
“We have a number of authors this year like Alexis Wright from Australia who have not been able to come in-person in the past and are participating this year,” Liz Koch, the co-producer of the festival said. “I think that’s of course good for them and for the audience.”
But the virtual format also discourages some people who don’t like online events. Mark Wunderlich is a poet and writer who attended the previous years’ festivals. He had a table about the writing program he directed, but will pass this year.
“I was not interested in attending a virtual event,” Wunderlich said. “I don’t really enjoy readings presented by video, and since there is no real opportunity to mingle or see friends, I will skip it this year.”
For organizers, the online format also created extra challenges.
“We are excited at how it’s coming together, but we have 100 programs taking place in one week,” Koch said. “So it’s a lot of technology and a lot of making sure that everybody shows up on the screen when they are supposed to.”
Laura Doland, a member of the Brooklyn Book Festival Literary Council and Nonfiction Programming Committee, said that the festival, now in its 15th year, drew about 40,000 attendees each year with 300 authors performing on 14 stages. It was both indoors and outdoors around Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Participants can register for the events online, and once the events go live, participants can access the recording for free at any time until the end of 2020. For a complete list of this year’s events, click here, the festival will run until October 5.