Best of the Vancouver Writers Festival

The book business is suffering. Toronto publishing house Key Porter “suspended operations” early this year. American retailer Borders, burdened with a half-billion-dollar debt, recently closed hundreds of stores and sought Chapter 11 protection. And now venerable Canadian distributor HB Fenn has shut its doors. Then there’s the uncertainty around digital rights and e-books. Which eReader is going to dominate the market? The Kindle? The Kobo? The iPad? One thing remains constant, though: reading itself. According to the country’s first National Book Count, in January, we bought or borrowed over 2.7 million books (both paper and pixels) in just one week. Further proof that the death of reading has been greatly exaggerated can be found at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. Attendance for the two-week festival has grown substantially since it debuted in 1988 (5,000 then, over 13,000 now; ticket prices have climbed, too). The latest spurt has the festival outgrowing its annual fall slot and adding a free, twice-monthly reading series. Every second Wednesday in spring and fall, authors from Canada and abroad converge at the downtown library for readings and discussion. Spring highlights include Timothy Taylor on April 6; Joyce Carol Oates and Johanna Skibsrud on April 20; Bern­hard Schlink on May 9; and Zsuzsi Gartner with singer-songwriter Sylvia Tyson on May 11. Alice MacKay Room, Central Library. 604-681-6330.