stacks of books on tables in a large exhibition hall

Book Fairs vs. Festivals: What’s the Difference?

Book fairs and literary festivals are both important events in the publishing world, but is there a difference between these two literary exhibitions? Before learning more about publishing and becoming the rights manager at Ooligan, I had always assumed they were interchangeable. In my mind, fairs and festivals were just two different ways of saying the same thing: an event for readers, authors, publishers, and more to come together and celebrate reading. While this remains true, there are a few key distinctions between these events that are helpful to know as a reader, author, and/or publishing professional.

Book or literary festivals are geared mainly toward readers and fans of books. They can last anywhere from a single day, such as our local Portland Book Festival, to up to three weeks, such as the Edinburgh International Book Festival. These festivals usually feature author speaking events, where authors and sometimes publishing professionals give talks about books, the writing process, and more. Readers get the chance to learn more about their favorite books and authors, and ask questions. Afterward, there are usually author signings, where attendees can get personalized, signed copies of their favorite books. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, publishers will have giveaways for advance copies of their upcoming releases or other kinds of giveaways—the amount of tote bags I’ve gotten from festivals is insane! Festivals for younger audiences, such as YALLFest, also often have fun games, food trucks, and more. The main purpose of book festivals is to serve as a fun gathering for all book lovers to come together and celebrate the joy of reading.

Book fairs, while also serving as a gathering place for book lovers, tend to differ in their main purpose. While some book fairs have an option for readers to come and visit, there usually aren’t any events such as talks, signings, or giveaways. These fairs are mainly for people working in publishing to promote themselves and/or their books. Publishers from around the world set up booths with their information and upcoming titles, and meet with other publishers to buy and sell rights. Fairs such as the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest book fair in the world, only have a few days that are open to the public to visit. The rest of the fair is spent facilitating meetings between literary agents, publishers, and editors. As Schoko Press writes, there might also be “Workshops and seminars . . . presenting topics on trends and industry news and developments.”

Book fairs are the best opportunity to meet more people in the industry, especially those in other book markets across the globe. Walking around these fairs, you’ll see industry professionals greeting old friends, pitching their books or authors, and meeting to collaborate on new projects. It’s basically a massive networking event for the publishing industry.

So, if you didn’t know, then now you know! Book festivals and fairs may seem similar, but they each serve a different and important purpose. If you’re a reader who’s looking to hear from your favorite author or get a signed copy, then you might want to stick to festivals. If you’re an author wondering about the difference, you’ll most likely be attending festivals to give talks and sign books, not the fairs. If you’re new to publishing and curious about the exchange of rights and networking in the industry, then a book fair might be the best bet! However, both provide amazing experiences for any lover of books and publishing, and if you get the chance to attend either, it will be an amazing experience you won’t forget.

If you would like to learn more about fairs and festivals or what events might be near you, here is a great article from Books Make a Difference that dives deeper into fairs and lists when and where they take place, and here is a great list of literary festivals from The Reading Lists.

person seated, looking through a phone

New Ways To Find New Books

How do you find books for your TBR (To Be Read) pile? Whether you are looking for your own next read, making a library run, or buying a gift for someone, chances are that you have a favorite source. It might be a trusted local bookseller. Maybe you have a “go-to” reviewer whose taste in books anticipates yours. Or perhaps you are one of those brave souls who enjoy strolling through a shop and literally judging a book by its cover! We’ve all done that, which is why we spend so much time and love on our Ooligan book covers. Maybe you are one of the lucky folks who has a friend with opposite taste in reading, and your book list stays fresh that way.

There’s no wrong way to select reading material. However, speaking from personal experience, using the same method to choose books can get us into a little bit of a reading rut at times. Especially if an author is prolific and writes in a popular genre, it’s all too easy to get into a groove with the familiar when we reach for a book. So we have a few suggestions for using technology to expand your reading list. Say it with me . . . “There’s an app for that!”


This is the grandmama of social reading apps. It’s great for keeping lists of what you’ve read, and the reviews are peer-written and genuine. Goodreads has millions of users and a huge catalog of books. However, it has been around since 2006, and it’s increasingly being surpassed by other, newer recommendation algorithms. But if you want to get recommendations from family and friends, or to join groups that are focused on specific topics or genres, you can probably find them on Goodreads. (Some consumers choose not to use Goodreads because it is owned by Amazon; in that case, StoryGraph is a similar app that is a little more modern.)


Are you a reader who likes to align their books, TV, movies, and music? The Likewise app covers far more than books. You can follow friends or celebrities, browse quirky curated lists, get reading recommendations based on your viewing and listening preferences, and even ask the community to solve reading conundrums for you.


This is an Ooligan favorite! LibraryThing lets you scan your books to build a library, and then explore recommendations, groups, community projects and games, and many other ways to find and play with books. Forgot the name of a book you read once? There’s a group just waiting to help you figure that out! You can check out other people’s libraries, and even flip the recommendation algorithm to get lists of books that are wildly different from what’s on your shelf. LibraryThing isn’t a sleek user interface, but it is stuffed full of information, and it’s a great place to go explore.


This is the new app on the block, partially funded by Ingram Content Group (which will also provide purchasing and shipping services for the site’s online bookshop). “Tertulia” means a literary or artistic salon, and this book recommendation service aspires to recreate the informal “book talk” often heard in Spanish cafes and bars. Tertulia differs from some other sites through its combination of algorithms plus editorial curation; it pulls information from thousands of sources online to figure out what books are being talked about, but also uses the opinions and recommendations of vetted experts to curate lists. This app is a good choice if you are looking for academic and artistic conversation about books, rather than a simple five-star rating system.

This is just a small sample of the many book recommendation apps that are available today. There are many ways to find books for your reading pile. While recommendations from friends and booksellers will never go out of style, technology can help you out too. If you are looking for ways to shake up your reading, consider exploring these or others. And please comment below and let us know: What is your favorite book recommendation app?