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Major publishers balk at new Toronto book festival Add to ...

Random House Canada, the country's largest publisher, announced this morning that it will not be taking part in a new fall book festival organized by Reed Exhibitions in Toronto. Penguin Canada has since announced it too will not take part.

In a short statement, Tracey Turriff, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Random House Canada, said "we attended a presentation about the plans for the show, and a number of challenges were raised, including basic elements like the venue and timing for the show. We are concerned that it will be difficult for this show to achieve success given these challenges, and that we would need to commit extensive resources for our involvement to be successful."

Earleir this year, Random House was the first major publisher to pull out of BookExpo, Reed's summertime industry fair in Toronto. HarperCollins and Penguin pulled out as well; Simon & Schuster is the only one of Canada's big four still committed to BookExpo. Reed subsequently announced the launch of the new event, scheduled for October at Toronto's CNE grounds.

But Turriff said Random today will put its energies elsewhere this year: "Random House of Canada is looking forward to its own Open House Festival in May, and this Fall will be broadening the Read for the Cure events, and we are interested in expanding involvement with the IFOA as it celebrates its 30th anniversary. Given the challenges facing the Toronto Book Fair, we feel these other initiatives present better opportunities to showcase our authors and their books, and that therefore our efforts are better spent on them."

Yvonne Hunter at Penguin says her firm is opting out of the fall festival "in part because we have big plans in the month of October for the launch of The Un-dead and And Another Thing (the authorized sequels to Dracula and The Hitchkiker's Guide to Galaxy, respectively) and we have five major events this spring including the launch of Hamish Hamilton on March 3rd (this is the first literary imprint to launch in Canada since Knopf sixteen years ago), two special events with KAMA for world literacy including an Extraordinary Canadians event on March 3 at the Queen's Park Ballroom at the Park Hyatt Hotel, and an event with Michael Ignatieff at Convocation Hall on Friday May 8th for True Patriot Love.

"... So with these events, fall book launches and the international literary festivals in Canada in October, we have a lot on the go."  

Meanwhile, HarperCollins spokesperson Rob Firing says "we are still reviewing our options" and haven't reached a conclusion about whether or not to take part in Reed's fall event.

Update: Simon & Shuster Canada will take part in the fall book show. The company's president, Kevin Hanson, e-mailed James Adams to announce their participation, adding, "I am hopeful that other publishers support a public event that celebrates both readers and authors and Canadian publishers and our collective love of books."

Still no comment from Reed Exhibitions.

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