There are definitely events I have “attended”, from the comfort of my track suit and armchair, that I otherwise would not because they were available online. Do they replace in-person events? No, of course not. How else will we have whispered conversations while other people are pouring their hearts out on stage? That said, there are reasons we should keep the virtual aspect as we move on after Covid.
A couple of months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the beginnings of something…a little bit magical. In the midst of lockdowns and closures and social distancing, people still wanted to talk about books. There were still books coming out, and people were still buying them (they might have even been buying more). Someone realized that they could host author talks via webinar and meeting platforms, or even on Facebook, and the trend took off. I found myself attending book talks sponsored by Loyalty Books in D.C., The Ripped Bodice in L.A., and Left Bank Books in St. Louis, among others. All from my computer in Tucson (and occasionally mirrored to my big TV).
The Tucson Festival of Books was able to include authors they’d probably been inviting for years, because this time they didn’t have to travel. Not only was I able to participate in a book community that had been becoming increasingly harder to take part in in person if you couldn’t shell out the cash to attend large conferences and conventions, but I could take the time to learn about folks I might never have encountered otherwise. Instead of trying to fly out authors to attend a book festival, anyone could join from anywhere. Instead of despairing that panelists wouldn’t use their microphones in a large room, you could turn on closed captioning in most platforms. Instead of FOMO, you had too many to choose from.
It was awesome.