Books are still books, in this age of COVID, which is a reassuring thing, and bookstores have not disappeared and are beginning to reopen. But COVID has had a huge impact on the industry.
Book events have changed, and publication dates for books have been shuttled around for all kinds of COVID-related reasons (bookstore closures, book tours canceled, printing plants cutting back, book distributors doing the same). Publicists seldom send out physical books for review, but digital versions.
But there is Zoom. And as long as there is Zoom, there will be book festivals and author events. Book launches held online can attract bigger and more far-flung audiences than in-person events. An example: Minneapolis writer Jonathan C. Slaght launched his book, “Owls of the Eastern Ice” in August (after publication was delayed from April) with a Zoom event hosted by the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. The event drew more than 400 people from all over the country and abroad.
This fall, the literary events you looked forward to all summer — Talking Volumes, PenPals, Talk of the Stacks, the University of Minnesota’s Visiting Writers Series — will all take place by Zoom, at least through the end of the year. (PenPals holds out hope that events in early 2021 might be in person.)
So Julia Alvarez, whose Talk of the Stacks appearance for her novel “Afterlife” was postponed in April, will appear via Zoom on Oct. 8.
And St. Paul writer Kao Kalia Yang, whose essay collection “Somewhere in the Unknown World” was postponed from March to August to September to October and now to November, will speak via Zoom at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 as part of the University of Minnesota English Department’s Visiting Writers Series.
Bookstores and libraries, meanwhile, are reopening. Some allow the public inside for browsing, with masks and limited numbers. Some are keeping their doors shut but allowing for curbside pickup and delivery. All take orders online or by phone.
The Twin Cities Book Festival, hosted by Rain Taxi, will hold its 20th anniversary festival Oct. 15-17 — virtually.
Bit by bit, through the magic of the internet and with a lot of patience, you can still hear your favorite writers, still get the books and the literary fixes that you crave.