Fantastic Online Book Festivals in 2020

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

Updated February 2021

Some of the events listed below are still viewable. However, you can see the latest literary festivals in our fresh post – The Best Online Book Festivals in 2021.

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.

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: Many events are free or pay what you what.

How To Access

You can book via the website.

Cambridge Winter Festival Online

Dates: 19-22 November

There’s a lovely line-up from the Cambridge Festival in November with scores of big-name British authors appearing over 4 days.

Virtual Literary Events

The dates and names have been published and booking opens 19 October. Authors include Robert Macfarlane, James Rebanks, Simon Armitage and Helen Macdonald.

There is also a free family day 29 November where Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo will be appearing.

Cost: It looks as if there will be a fee for the adult events at present (TBC)

How To Access

You can book via the website.

Past Online Book Festivals in 2020 with Free Virtual Book Events

Virtual Literary Events

There have been numerous online book festivals in 2020 that still allow open access to their online book events.

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

Wigtown Book Festival

Dates: 24 September – 4 October 2020

The Wigtown Festival is held annually in this famous Scottish book town and this year they held a virtual literary festival WBF20 instead with the themes Resilience and Connection.

Virtual Literary Events

There was lovely mix of genres and authors for all age groups. Festival highlights included:

Cost: Content is FREE but you need to reserve tickets via the website.

How to Access

Content can be accessed via the Wigtown Festival website and also on YouTube channel.

Brooklyn Book Festival Virtual Fest

Dates: September 28 – October 5 2020

The 15th anniversary of the Brooklyn Book Festival was open across the world free of charge via it’s digital programme. The line-up was wonderfully diverse with national, international and emerging authors. 100 authors contributed to a day of programming which included fiction, non-fiction, poetry and comics.

Virtual Literary Events

Headline names included:

Cost: Mostly FREE.

How to Access

Register your interest via each event on 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 streamed 100 events live this Autumn. Guest curators were Shamil Thakrar – co-founder of Dishoom, Best Restaurant in the UK winner and award-winning British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak.

Virtual Literary Events

These included Malcolm Gladwell, Elif Shafak, Liz Hyder anand Mary Beard and Peter Stothard. The children’s and YA book line-up was fantastic too. Katherine Rundell, Oliver Jeffers, Liz Pichon and Nizrana Farook all featured.

Cost: FREE

How To View

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

Edinburgh International Book Festival Online

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a huge literary festival in the UK calendar and they showcased events from more than 30 countries in August. This stay at home festival included an absolutely stellar line-up with virtual literary events for adults and children.

Authors: Matt Haig, Bernardine Evaristo, Cassandra Clare

You can watch most of the videos for free on each of the author event pages.

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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