8 Fantastic Online Book Festivals in 2020

Online Book Festivals to Enjoy in 2020 with a bunting of brightly coloured books against a blue sky.

Although we’ve missed physical book events this year, there has been an amazing amount of online book festivals in 2020 and there are more to come. In this blog post, we’ve listed a few of the upcoming virtual literary festivals taking place across the globe and also mentioned several past events where you can access content for free or for a low cost. Where digital festivals are free (if you can afford it) then it’s great if you can donate as this keeps the arts alive.

The Benefits of Digital Festivals

If you’re not already sold on digital festivals, here are a few reasons why they are worth attending:

  • Digital Festivals are often free or cheap to access. There’s no need for pricey extras such as transport or accommodation.
  • You can view the content from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.
  • There’s no need to get dressed up or even get up to attend digital festivals. Watch from your bath, bed or in the garden.
  • The range of speakers can be much greater as guests can join in from anywhere on the planet.
  • Often, you can replay interviews which makes it easier to take notes.

Online Book Festivals in 2020 (in chronological order)

We’ve included information and resources in these listings below and will update over the coming weeks. If you’re particularly interested in an online literary festival, we recommend signing up to the newsletter for the latest updates.

Edinburgh International Book Festival Online

Dates: 15-31 August 2020

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a huge literary festival in the UK calendar so it’s heartening to see that they’ve decided to go digital this year. Even better, it’s FREE! Showcasing events from more than 30 countries, this stay at home festival includes an absolutely stellar line-up that includes virtual literary events for adults and children.

Virtual Literary Events

If you didn’t manage to catch the live event you can view all of these via the links:

There’s also an interactive element to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which adds an extra dimension. You’ll be able to participate in Q&A sessions, chatrooms and even meet the author and get your book copies signed.

Cost: FREE

How to Access

First you need to register on the official website. Once you have an account, just check out the events and save your place on the specific virtual book event page. You’ll receive an email just before it starts.

Wigtown Book Festival

Dates: 25 September – 4 October 2020

The Wigtown Festival is held annually in this famous Scottish book town and this year they’re holding a virtual literary festival WBF20 instead with the themes Resilience and Connection. The main programme hasn’t been announced yet, but there are many episodes to listen to on the Wigtown Festival podcast and watch via their website.

Virtual Literary Events

I’ll update this page with virtual book festival events when they are announced this month. In the meantime the below are just a selection of literary events that are free to watch for free online.

Cost: Existing content is FREE. A crowdfunder will be launched in late summer.

How to Access

Existing content can be accessed via the Wigtown Festival website.

Brooklyn Book Festival Virtual Fest

Dates: September 28 – October 5 2020

The 15th anniversary of the Brooklyn Book Festival will be open to all across the world free of charge via it’s digital programme. The line-up is wonderfully diverse with national, international and emerging authors. The day to put in your diaries is 4 October 2020 when 100 authors will contribute to a day of programming – this will include fiction, non-fiction, poetry and comics.

Virtual Literary Events

With 100 authors in one day, you are totally spoilt for choice. Headline names include:

Cost: Mostly FREE. Details to be confirmed.

How to Access

This hasn’t been updated yet but I’m assuming that this will be via the Brooklyn Book Festival website.

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

Dates: 2 – 11 October 2020

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival are going one step further than other online book festivals in 2020 and will be streaming 100 events live this Autumn. Guest curators are Shamil Thakrar – co-founder of Dishoom, Best Restaurant in the UK winner and award-winning British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak.

Virtual Literary Events

These have now been announced and include Malcolm Gladwell, Elif Shafak, Liz Hyder anand Mary Beard and Peter Stothard. The children’s and YA book line-up is fantastic too. Katherine Rundell, Oliver Jeffers, Liz Pichon and Nizrana Farooky all feature.

Cost: FREE

How To View

The virtual book events will be accessed through a digital hub on the Cheltenham Festival website. You need to register first.

The Vancouver Writers Fest 2020

Dates: 19 – 25 October 2020

More than 65 authors, spoken-word artists and poets will appear at Vancouver Writers Fest 2020, the biggest literary event in the city’s calendar. Speakers will attend virtually from all over the world via a range of different digital formats making this a global offering.

Virtual Literary Events

The 2020 reading list has been released although the virtual book event dates are still to be announced. Major names and titles include:

Cost: Tickets to go on sale in September

How To Access

The virtual book events will be accessed through the website.

Past Online Book Festivals in 2020 with Free Virtual Book Events

There have been numerous online book festivals in 2020 that still allow open access to their online book events. We’ve shared several that we’ve enjoyed.

Buxton International Festival: BIF Digital

I helped to produce this compact online festival series which included interviews from the world of opera, music and books during lockdown. All the videos can be viewed for FREE via the Buxton International Festival YouTube channel.

Virtual Literary Events

Harrogate International Festivals: HIF Weekender

Harrogate International Festivals offer a series of book events throughout the year with a focus on crime writing. This year they produced an online literary festival named the HIF Weekender comprises of 40+ recorded interviews with well-known authors.

Virtual Literary Events

Hay Festival

Although not free, an honorary mention for the Hay Festival.

Hay Festival held its online literary festival in May with a massive guest list. The talks were free to watch at the time, but you now need to purchase a Hay Player pass for £10 to view as many as you like.

A Few Extras to Remember When Attending Online Book Festivals

  • Check your timings when planning to attend virtual book events in other time zones. You can use this handy Time Zone Converter.
  • If an online literary festival needs a reservation, ensure you book your place early, especially for live Q&As, signings etc. There can be number limits for popular authors.
  • Expect glitches. Online book festivals are still very much in pioneer territory and internet connections don’t always work seamlessly.
  • If you have the means, support the festival and authors via a donation, friends membership and/or buying books through the festival website. Most of these organisations will have lost significant income this year.

Have you Attended Any Online Book Festivals in 2020?

Did you enjoy your experience at an online literary event and are you planning to view any future digital festivals? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Catherine Hjertholm
    August 5, 2020 / 9:09 am

    Thank you so much for compiling this very helpful list! I’ve signed up for a ton of events for the Edinburgh Book Festival, which I’ve never been able to attend before. Thanks! Best, Catherine (@cassiehbooks on Instagram)

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      August 6, 2020 / 4:41 pm

      That’s so good to know! Which events did you sign up for?

      • Catherine Hjertholm
        August 6, 2020 / 5:02 pm

        So many: Sarah Moss, Ali Smith, Matt Haig, some on race and climate change and more. Am trying to take advantage of finally “attending” this festival, albeit online – and then making a donation as I think that’s important too.

        Have you signed up for many lectures/interviews?

        • thebookfamilyrogerson
          August 6, 2020 / 8:53 pm

          I have signed up for Maggie O’Farrell and Bernardine Evaristo so far but would be interested in all the above too! I viewed a climate talk between Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac at Hay. I think they may be speaking at Edinburgh as well.

  2. Kasturi
    August 6, 2020 / 6:55 am

    Thank you for this Mel! This is such a gem of a post right now.

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      August 6, 2020 / 4:41 pm

      I was surprised at how many events are out there so wanted to share ASAP!

  3. August 19, 2020 / 12:55 pm

    This is a great list for not only books, but also for writers. As someone who doesn’t live down south, this has been great for attending and taking part in events that I wouldn’t have. I did the Winchester Festival, which was really good xx

    • thebookfamilyrogerson
      August 19, 2020 / 1:28 pm

      Exactly that! Online festivals are so accessible and much cheaper because there’s no need to pay for accommodation or transport xx

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