Anyone in children's book publishing who has already booked their travel to the 2013 Bologna Book Fair may have noticed that flights were slightly more expensive than usual, and accommodations more scarce. They may have also noticed that the fair will overlap with two religious holidays: Passover and Good Friday. The fair is set for March 25-28 and conflicts with the Jewish holiday (which begins on Monday night, March 25) and the Christian one (which takes place the day after the fair ends, on March 29). Although the timing is not prohibiting many in the industry from attending, it is an overlap fairgoers are lamenting.
The unfortunate scheduling of book fairs is not a foreign concept to veterans of the publishing business. The Frankfurt Book Fair scheduled its annual trade show during the Jewish holidays more than once. Since that fair takes place in Germany, the scheduling conflicts with the Jewish holidays became a particularly sensitive issue, with some claiming the roots of the overlap lay in anti-Semitism. (In 1986, when that book fair was scheduled during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Putnam canceled its booth and said it would not attend.) With Bologna, the conflict is far less controversial but, as many pointed out, a bit inconvenient.
Agent Rosemary Stimola, of Stimola Literary Studio, said she did not realize the conflict until she went to book her plane ticket and hotel in Italy. She said she assumed prices were higher because of the holidays – she noted that "airfare seemed more expensive" and fewer rooms at hotels were available – and is "not loving being away from home and family" for the holiday. (She said her family celebrates Easter in a "non-Catholic way.") Ultimately, she said, she hopes the fair "doesn't make a habit" of overlapping with these holidays.
The organizers of the fair acknowledge that the scheduling is not ideal, but said they had no choice when it came to the selection of these dates. Roberta Chinni, project manager for the fair, said she has received "a few" letters complaining about the timing of the show. She said the fair "regretted" having to make this decision, but that "it was impossible to find a different solution." While she did not elaborate why the fair could not have been scheduled at a different time, she did say that the show will "be careful to avoid this clash in the future."
One agent, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said she thinks the scheduling is "a little odd." She then added that "so much is done electronically afterwards, maybe it doesn't really matter for one fair."
Beverly Horowitz, v-p and publisher of Bantam Delacorte, said the timing was not ideal, but acknowledged that it will likely affect those who are Orthodox more than anyone else. Foundry Literary + Media agent Stephen Barbara, who is not attending this year's fair because he is expecting a baby, said he would have been going to the show otherwise. (He described himself as "a badly lapsed Catholic," in explaining that the Good Friday conflict would not have been a deal breaker.) However, he said, "I have heard a bunch of people grumbling about the inconvenience."
Another agent, who also asked her name be witheld, said she assumes that the scheduling will affect a number of New York agents and editors. This agent, who outsources her foreign rights sales, has also heard of at least one Israeli publisher who is not attending the show because it conflicts with Passover.
"I'm disappointed," said agent Marcia Wernick, of the scheduling. Wernick, a partner at the agency Wernick & Pratt, said she is not observant, so the scheduling does not create any difficulties for her personally but that, nonetheless, it is "a shame" that the fair could not find other dates. "It also creates problems for people traveling after the fair, since it makes it more difficult to [book] those arrangements."