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Toronto international book fair closes after one year

The first Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair will also be the last.

The event — which launched last November — announced there will be no 2015 edition, amid speculation that lower-than-expected turnout and book sales left some vendors disappointed.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to secure a timely commitment from exhibitors regarding their participation for a second year,” event organizers said in a statement.

“It’s very shocking. It’s super sad,” said Jesse Bernstein, director of sales and development for the fair.

“The interest was there,” he said of potential vendors, but “we needed a resounding yes, and we weren’t getting that.”

Some in Toronto’s literary scene are mourning the loss, including author Marrisa Stapely, who attended last year as both an author and ambassador.

“I went pretty much every day over the weekend. I loved it, I found it really, really exciting. I thought that the lineup was great,” she said.

But she did notice a lack of crushing crowds. The fair was criticized for lower-than-expected turnout — at 20,000 to 25,000 — and slower-than-expected book sales.

“I would have liked to sell more books,” said Sandra Kasturi, poet and co-publisher of fantasy and genre fiction ChiZine Publications. But she said still called the fair’s demise a “shame.

“I’m really sad about it,” she said. “I thought it was a good start. It had some imperfections, but I think they were really trying to do something great for the city on the literature and arts side of things.”

Antanas Sileika wondered if the city is “saturated with book events already,” with the International Festival of Authors and the Word on the Street festival.

Sileika attended last year and was able to recruit writers to the Humber School for Writers, where he is director, and said he was also sad to see the fair go.

“The question becomes, how much actually can a town take?” he said.

But Kasturi argued that the Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair filled a need for a major, international book event that celebrated the many levels of the book world, from celebrity names to unknown writers, the likes of Penguin to small publishers.

“The big players should have jumped on board,” she said, criticizing the major book publishers in the city. “I feel like the publishing industry is frequently hide bound and reluctant to embrace anything new, especially if it’s not an instant million-dollar success.”

Book fair by the numbers

  • 400 authors, including big names such as as Margaret Atwood
  • 200 exhibitors
  • 3 day event
  • $1 million reported original budget
  • 50,000 reported original attendance
  • 20,000-25,000 actual attendance

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