The Malta Book Festival has now established itself as the most prestigious event revolving around books in Malta – the foremost book celebration in the country’s cultural calendar. Organised by the National Book Council, the literary festival is one of the popular draws of the autumn months in the Maltese islands and annually boasts an attendance rate of over 40,000 visitors. With the participation of more than 40 exhibitors, it also offers extensive networking opportunities for industry professionals.
Under normal circumstances, the five-day-long Festival would have seen the start of what has become an annual ritual: the migration of book lovers to the Mediterranean Conference Centre, as well as over five thousand students and teachers from all schools in Malta and Gozo during weekdays. Covid-19 has however drawn a line through the National Book Council’s original plans. In its place the organisers have gone virtual with a free condensed online programme.
The 2020 Malta Book Festival will still run between 11–15 November as previously announced. However, instead of putting up the events at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, we are curating a special online edition.
The team and exhibitors of the 2020 Malta Book Festival have focused on retaining, adapting and developing a cultural programme with the potential to convey the same spirit of inventiveness, exchange and creativity to an even wider book-loving community.
Preparations are now well underway, and this year’s special guest will be announced shortly, while a full programme of events will be published in the coming weeks. The cultural programme for the 2020 Malta Book Festival virtual edition will feature book launches, readings, meetings with authors, poetry readings, conferences and seminars – including a literary conference on the topic of translating and exporting literature, and a number of events featuring local and international publishers and authors.
With some authors and publishers unable to travel amid social distancing restrictions, all the 2020 Malta Book Festival events for adults and children will be streaming for free on the National Book Council’s website and Facebook page.
The online transition as a way to promote a change
Moving online is an opportunity to engage with audiences old and new: with location and venue size no longer an issue, the audience size and geographical diversity is, in theory, limitless. We hope to make the audience’s experience an easier one: to join a festival from home one needs only reach for their nearest screen.
Together with publishers and other stakeholders the National Book Council is taking this as an opportunity to come up with innovative ways of promoting reading and sustaining book sales.
This one-off transition to an online format helped foster a total restructure of local publishers’ online retail space. The online-only format of this year’s Malta Book Festival was a call to our stakeholders in the publishing industry, especially this year’s exhibitors, to up their online services to the latest technology, and to better the online buying experience of their customers.
Besides generating substantial book sales, the Festival has also become an important place for publishers to promote authors and foster engagement with readers. The explosion of online literary events organised during the lockdown months as the industry was grappling with the impact of Covid-19 proved both the potentials of building digital communities in the books world and the shared enthusiasms of readers.
This year it will be the Malta Book Festival 2020 that will be reaching school classrooms in Malta and Gozo.
This year as well, weekday mornings at the Festival are dedicated to events for school children. A special programme of online cultural and fun activities for students and teachers alike is set up, including theatre pieces, readings and meetings with writers. Like every year, a professional team of actors is in the process of adapting the previous year’s and current year’s Terramaxka Prize winning books into productions appropriate for different age groups. A special guest will be streaming a show for those schools who decide to opt for an English production.
Activities for school children this time round will be streamed online and schools interested in participating are invited to submit their applications just like for previous editions (a circular inviting all schools to place their bookings will be shared shortly). As usual, a €3 voucher will be sent to each and every student that is registering to participate in this year’s Malta Book Festival.
Teachers will have the possibility of using the Festival to create discussion groups about books, leading online book-browsing experience ‘seminars’, and helping students select the best books for children published locally.
The virtual exhibitors
|Central Bank of Malta||https://www.centralbankmalta.org/the-library|
|Għaqda tal-Malti, Università||https://www.facebook.com/ghaqdamalti/|
|Heritage Malta Publishing||http://heritagemalta.org/book-buy/heritage-malta-publications/|
|Istituto Italiano di Cultura||https://iicvalletta.esteri.it/iic_lavalletta/it/|
|Klabb Kotba Maltin /
|Mellieħa Local Council||https://www.mellieha.gov.mt/|
|Miller Distributors Ltd.||www.agendabookshop.com|
|Sensiela Kotba Soċjalisti||https://bdlbooks.com/publisher/sensiela-kotba-socjalisti/|
Buying books online
The publishers’ online shops are up and running and you will be able to purchase books online. We are determined to provide our audience with a holistic experience made of books, literature and reading. We set ourselves the task of making sure the transition happens smoothly. The National Book Council had already envisaged the possibility and the potential of a festival to be held online way back at the beginning of this year when the pandemic struck Malta. All households in Malta and Gozo received an informative poster about all publishers in Malta and how to buy books online (also available on our website).
The MBF team encourages the public, especially students and their guardians, to familiarise themselves with these publishers and their titles through their online shops.
Of course, for all the benefits that digitalisation may bring, the virtual experience will never truly substitute the real. Public health guidelines permitting, the Malta Book Festival hopes to return as soon as possible with live events, though these may take a more hybrid form to adapt to life post-Covid-19.