“This was an unprecedented event. For the first time, we brought together people from all over Brazil and also from different countries of the world in this great party that is the Bienial.”
The 2020 São Paulo Bienial shares duties every other year with Rio as Brazil’s largest book fair. In its 2018 incarnation the event attracted an impressive crowd of 663,000 visitors, leaving the big question hanging over the pandemic-driven pivot to digital in 2020: could a virtual book fair hope to attract anywhere near as many visitors?
Well, the Brazilian Book Chamber (CBL) has totted up the numbers and it transpires the 190 hours of programming, 100 exhibitors, 220 national authors, eight foreigners and 114 business meetings with international buyers as part of the Professional Day, literally doubled the physical audience numbers, with 1.33 million views.
The online presentations, which ran December 7-13, will be accessible until February 13, 2021.
CBL president Vitor Tavares said,
This was an unprecedented event. For the first time, we brought together people from all over Brazil and also from different countries of the world in this great party that is the Bienial.
We don’t know the financial numbers yet, and direct to consumer book sales may have been negatively impacted this year, but the professional days event, organised by the industry promotions body Brazilian Publishers, went ahead online and per a pre-event report was due to have included:
More than 50 Brazilian and foreign companies, which expect to have US $400,000 generated as results of deals closed in the next 12 months.
In its first edition, held in 2018, during the in-person edition of the São Paulo Book Fair, Professional Days had the participation of 58 publishers, among national and international, and US $730,000 were generated as results of deals closed in 12 months.
With a population of 210 million and at 70.7% internet penetration, Brazil’s 149 million internet users make the country the fifth largest on the planet in terms of people online.
And that means, having let the digital book fair genie out of the bottle in 2020, there’s no cramming it back in. Safe to say the 2022 São Paulo Bienial, pandemic or not, will be a hybrid affair reaping the rewards of both an in-person event and an online incarnation.
The big question remaining is whether the 2021 Rio Bienial will go down the same road, always assuming the pandemic has even been tamed by then and there is a choice.
Other Brazil book fair coverage: