“We see that the virtual book fair can create added value for both authors, publishers and other partners. It gives us a completely different opportunity to reach out, not only during four trade fair days but over time and beyond geographical boundaries”

The Bokmässan may be over, but it’s only just begun, and already the organisers are celebrating the provisional numbers, confident the final prime time count will be higher still, and the end of year count still higher. Such is the power of the digital book fair, a format it took a pandemic to make happen and will take an earthquake to stop happening again.

The four day Gothenburg Book Fair is the highlight of the Nordics publishing calendar, but this year of course became just one more casualty of the coronavirus.

Except that, rather than roll over until 2021 and hope to resume the old normal, the Bokmässan took the pandemic in its stride, cancelled the in-person event and pushed all its efforts into a virtual replacement. With spectacular results.

I’ve not seen the official press release, so will rely on Sölve Dahlgren over at Boktugg for quotes:

Oskar Ekström, program manager at the Bokmässan, said:

This year’s program has had a fantastic spread, the preliminary live figures are very nice. Our media partners also say that we can expect a lot of traffic afterwards. We see that Bokmässan Play can create added value for both authors, publishers and other partners. It gives us a completely different opportunity to reach out, not only during four trade fair days but over time and beyond geographical boundaries. Now we look forward to following how much the program continues to spread during the autumn.

The figure of 373,000 views is the preliminary figure as the book fair wound up after its four day stint in front of professional camera crews that fed the events to the world. But the real beauty of the virtual book fair is that these events will remain accessible online until the end of the year, so the final viewing figures, already subject to upward revision as all sources are tracked for the four days live, could be much, much higher.

The viewing figure is preliminary and may be adjusted as the Bokmässan’s media partner delivers final figures within a couple of days. A viewing can also be seen by several people. Among other things, libraries and cultural centers in several places in Sweden have shown the program to their visitors, special Bokmässan meetings have been arranged in rented cinema salons, family and friends have watched together and programme items have been broadcast from TV screens in bookstores and shops.

Ekström told Boktugg there had been an average of 979 views per programme item so far more than four times what was possible with the traditional in-person event, which of course can draw an audience only for the duration of each programme.

We also expect that there will be a lot of post-viewing during the autumn. According to our media partners who have a lot of experience of it, we can expect a good spread long after the event.

Per the press release via Boktugg:

In total, more than 470 authors, researchers, journalists and experts participated in the Bokmässan’s own programs. In addition, Bildningshubben on 24-25 September and Litteraturfestivalen on 26-27 September were strengthened by stage programs from 10 different stages. A total of 381 program items were broadcast at the Bokmässan on Thursday-Sunday and 846 people participated in the Bokmässan’s programme and the organizers’ stage programme.

There were the inevitable teething problems, not least because the Bokmässan relied on third party platforms like Vimeo and Youtube alongside the Bokmässan website. Ekström explained:

There are some fine-tuning we are looking at, of course, but in general we are very satisfied with the technology.

Now we hope to be back in Gothenburg (in-person) next year, planning begins next week. But we will continue to develop the virtual Bokmässan. It had been fantastic fun to hear about all the initiatives around the country where the conversations from the Bokmässan were shown in schools, libraries and even in rented cinemas.

And as Boktugg’s Sölve Dahlgren said in his conclusion,

For those who want to listen to conversations about literature, there are now hundreds of programmes to watch until New Year’s Eve. It is all so very different.