Read | The best digital book events

23 April 2020

Lee Randall selects some of the best online books content that has sprung up since lockdown. You can read her essay about how live literature has moved online and what it means for the world of books, here.

One consequence of people being unable to meet is the reinvigoration of the literary blog (including this, from the Scottish Poetry Library). Edinburgh’s City of Literature set up #EdLitSpotlight, exploring how creatives are spending their days, and #EdLitCalendar, an overview of online events.

Every Tuesday the At Home With Penguin series streams live from authors’ homes, hearing how they’re spending their time, talking about what they’re reading, and taking questions. It kicked off with Marian Keyes, and will include “visits” with Melissa Hemsley, Caroline Criado Perez and Richard Osman.

Authors are reading aloud on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Children’s authors are holding online drawing and activity sessions, and Wigtown’s Big Dog Festival has now found a virtual expression. Dolly Parton launched Goodnight with Dolly, as part of her Imagination Library, reading kids a series of bedtime stories. 

Arvon now offers weekly taster sessions online, where, for £5, writers can attend a session where a tutor provides a reading and answers questions. 

Collectively known as At Home with 4 Indies (@homewith4Indies), independent bookstores Linghams, Forum Books, Booka and Bookish created a Facebook Live portal where they’ll run a series of events. (They started with Jack Monroe on 20th April). These shops have strong ties to their communities, and already boast strong  year-round programmes of events. No purchase is necessary to attend. About 40 authors are in the wings, with more due to be announced. 

The first I heard of was Stay at Home! Literary Festival, organised by Carolyn Jess Cooke, in conjunction with Paper Nations. In roughly two weeks, they created an ambitious 16-day programme embracing every genre, filled with workshops, readings, panel events and launches—all free to attend via Zoom. Two hundred and twenty writers took part, attracting 14,680 attendees from around the world. 

Here, we also launched #WigtownWednesdays, kicking off with Sally Magnusson, on the 8th of April. Next up is 29 April, with Robert Twigger. Fresh initiatives are in the pipeline, with artistic director Adrian Turpin announcing a renewed commitment to providing online content.

Shortly after revealing their 2020 programme under new director, Sasha de Buyl, Galway’s Cúirt International Festival of Literature announced a shorter version of the programme would go out online, free, between Thursday 23 and Saturday 25 April. Melbourne Writers’ Festival  is also heading online, and like Cúirt, scaling back its 2020 programme and providing free access. 

Other virtual literary festivals on the horizon include The Lockdown Lit Fest, Book Bound, and the two-day Lit Fest Online, put on in partnership with The Author's Club. The Big Book Weekend, co-founded by authors Kit de Waal and Molly Flatt, takes place on the first bank holiday weekend in May, as part of BBC Arts "Culture In Quarantine" programming. It’ll be hosted by newcomers MyVLF—a free, global online literary festival—and celebrate the quality of programming in Britain by hosting events that were due to take place at now-cancelled festivals—including one from Edinburgh’s CYMERA, featuring Laura Lam and Temi Oh.

To stay up to date on what’s happening in the virtual world, why not bookmark this updating list of bibliophile tweets, being curated by the Guardian.