Friday, July 24, 2015

Goodbye, South Carolina Book Festival

South Carolina Book Festival in 2012
News came out of Columbia yesterday that the South Carolina Book Festival is no more.  Instead, the state Humanities Council decided that it would be best to do author events across the state.  To be honest with you, I have not been to the state book festival since 2012 when they brought Kimberla Lawson Roby, Zane and Eric Jerome Dickey.  I was in Chicago last year and the other two years they didn't bring people that interested me enough to roll out of bed and drive almost two hours to Columbia.  There were a lot of things I think they did wrong, which lead to the book festival being the thing of the past.
  • Inviting the same people OVER AND OVER AGAIN. I can see them inviting Dorothea Benton Frank every year because she comes out with a new book every year.  But inviting Pat Conroy (and some others) just for the hell of it got old.
  • NOT ENOUGH DIVERSITY.  There were some years (like this one) you can count how many African-American authors they had with one hand.  And Asians, Hispanics and Native Americans? Whatever.  I know the festival was moved it to May from February because they were trying to get more authors before they went to BEA, but it seem like they had more minority authors when it was in February.
  • The Humanities Council also didn't try to expand their audience.  Yeah, it's good catering to middle-aged and older white people and families with small children.  But what about the rest of us?  And they always had the book festival on the same weekend as the Columbia Black Expo except for this year, when it conflicted with the African-American rodeo.  Both of those events were next door at the Colonial Life Arena.  And they hardly ever got any Young Adult authors, which would have drew the teens.  Why do they think YA'LL Fest gets bigger every year?
  • And last (but not least), the loss of two of their biggest sponsors, Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble.  And I know how people feel about Amazon and big book stores.  The Humanities Council made it seem like they dropped the big book stores to support indie book stores in the state.  But one of my friends think it might have been the other way around and the big book stores dropped them.  It's still bad because the box stores (especially BAM) were the ones that brought the few minority authors they were getting.
I hope that the Humanities Council eventually brings back the book festival or that others start their own festivals.  It's sad that they couldn't improve on a wonderful event that many people enjoyed for almost 20 years.  And I hope that the council's future initiatives work out for the benefit of the people of South Carolina.

No comments:

Post a Comment