Many of the independent book sellers were absent due to sidewalk space being taken up in the past year by outdoor restaurant seating. There is no longer any room for them where they have been usually located so they were eliminated by the event sponsor, the Chicago Tribune, a conservative newspaper. Space could have been made elsewhere but that just did not happen. No comic book publishers were present nor were the usual vintage map, postcard and magazine dealers.
Some of the usual publishers and book sellers who come every year were absent. I missed seeing their friendly faces. Other regular vendors who would normally have an entire booth for themselves had to share space in a booth with other vendors; sometimes getting only a quarter of the space they are accustomed to getting.
I usually spend alot of time at the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter booth but they did not have one this year. 2 mystery authors rotated space in a booth that was shared with 3 other publishers. Gone were their day long author readings and interviews that I have always enjoyed. I did not hear any authors giving readings or speeches in other spaces where they traditionally have done so. Since they normally used very loud microphones you could not have missed their presence in the past.
When the Chicago Tribune took over the sponsorship of this book fair 5-10 years ago, they began selling tickets to author events in different locations in the Chicago downtown area. To get these tickets you had to be a Tribune subscriber with an additional subscription to their Printer's Row Sunday newspaper addition. While they created many new and exciting events, these author affairs were traditionally free, located within the book fair area, and seating was available on a first come, first serve basis. Together with the elimination of independent publishers, authors who published their own novels, publishers of radical political books and publishers of religious books not in the Judeo-Christian tradition, I have a bad feeling about the Tribune silencing voices they do not like. While most attendees never gave these folks much attention, everyone spoke politely to them, passed some time with them in small talk and left them with a handshake. It was a happy and cordial atmosphere. I don't like the changes.
Nothing was free this year. Normally an author hawking a book would pass out a bookmark that was an advertisement for one of their books. This year they were $1. The Poetry Foundation has always given away older volumes of their magazine but not this year. Publisher catalogs were not free either.
C-SPAN usually covers the Lit Fest but they were absent too. The Lit Fest was rather disappointing this year. It has always been one of the nation's premier book shows but it is showing signs of faltering.