The third annual Easton Book Festival is underway. As part of it Eric Ziolkowski, the chair of the Religious Studies department at Lafayette College, interviewed me about Nightmares with the Bible. You can watch the interview here. And be sure to check out the other offerings of the EBF—it’s hybrid this year so much of it is online for those who can’t make their way to Easton. We’re all looking forward to the day when the festival can be in person again, as it was in 2019. As part of tomorrow’s program I’ll be interviewing my friend Robert Repino about several of his novels. That event will be live and outdoors, but I suspect it will be posted on the festival website later.
The EBF is a shining example of what books can do for a community. People have been turning back to books with the pandemic. Those of us in the publishing industry are keeping an eye on this. While academic usage has shifted to electronic, the wider market has been favoring print books because, well, people like books. Andy Laties, one of the proprietors of The Book and Puppet Company, has spearheaded efforts to continue this celebration of books even as a pandemic has changed the way we do everything. Easton isn’t a huge city, but the Lehigh Valley is a book-friendly place. When the will to organize book lovers exists, wonderful things can happen. Books can build a community as well as be a community.
A friend recently said that the problem with writing books is that too many people do it. I don’t see this as a problem. Many self-published books do far better than those I’ve sent through more traditional channels. They may put pressure on traditional models, but pressure isn’t always bad. The route to publication is actually full of roadblocks—some accidental but many intentional. One of the largest barricades is the fact that the publishing industry is a rather small one. Major publishers have been monopolizing for years, bigger companies buying out successful smaller ones, so that the highway to publication now has many toll booths that require exact change. There have always been those who can find their way through by an alternate route. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be part of the conversation. If you’re near Easton come on out in person—bring a mask—and see what’s happening tomorrow. If you’re not in the area take a look at the free content online. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.