20 January 2009

Toronto Book Fair

Well, they've done it again. It wasn't enough for them to rip off the Nuit Blanche from Montreal (via Paris), now Toronto is going to have a go at a salon du livre. As an alternative to the nearly defunct Book Expo Canada, a Toronto Book Fair has been proposed for 2-4 October 2009. This is, of course, nothing more than a salon du livre, the likes of which have existed in the francophone world for many decades (Montreal since 1978, and Paris since 1981).

According to Publishers Weekly, Book Expo Canada — also known as the Dullest Literary Event in the History of the World™ — is on its last legs, as most of the publishers and distributors, including HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Scholastic, H.B. Fenn and ‘a handful of other Canadian houses’, have all decided not to attend. In its place, Reed Exhibitions (who, incidentally, are also the people behind Publishers Weekly, the Salon du livre de Paris and Book Expo Canada) are going to try to put on an English-language salon du livre in Toronto.

As these events are wildly popular in the francophone world — the six-day event ($8 admission charge per day) in Montreal attracts about 125,000 visitors every year — and as Reed know how to put on such an event through their experience with the Salon du livre de Paris, I would expect them to do a good job with a similar event in Toronto, even if the concept of a salon du livre doesn't exist in the anglophone world and even if the demand for books is considerably greater in Paris than it is in Toronto.

All of this begs the question: why does Toronto keep copying everything done in Montreal and/or Paris? If Paris is a first-rate city, and Montreal following them in almost everything they do (see Vélib' v. Bixi for the latest example) makes us a second-rate city, does that make Toronto a third-rate city?