So Long, Buffalo Small Press Book Fair

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After 10 years of bringing together print creators and artists of all types, the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair is calling it quits, with the final fair taking place this weekend (April 8 and 9) at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in downtown Buffalo.

Co-founder and organizer Chris Fritton said he and the staff felt it was a good time to close the door, while the event still felt vital.
“We’d like to step out before the brand or content becomes stale or irrelevant,” he says. “We’ve done a lot over the course of 10 years to keep content relevant, more progressive, edgier, I do think that it’s time for a bit of reinvention. We’ll close the door on this brand and create something that Buffalo needs.”

The BSPBF started as a haven for handmade books, zines and small press poetry – “Marginalized artists who didn’t have a venue,” Fritton says. Over the years, that vendor pool has changed and Fritton has seen an increased in applications from print on demand vendors (ie, authors who pay to self-publish through Amazon, Createspace, Lulu, etc.) Fritton estimates that print-on-demand authors now constitute 80 to 90 per cent of the fair’s applications. While Fritton takes no issue with print on demand as a rule, he was concerned about the glut of applicants taking over the fair – and taking it further away from its original purpose. He envisions a more ideal breakdown, possibly through a new festival that could be planned in the future.

“I’d really like to create an event that is divided more into sections,” he says. “An area for fine craft, area for print, area for zines, area for small press poetry, area of print on demand. A fair that still values inclusivity and affordability, that gives everyone their five minutes. When that proportion changed so wildly, it really threw the fair out of balance, out of wack. I hope I’ll be able to devise a fair that restores that balance.”

Buffalo is also changing and re-urbanizing quickly, experiencing what Fritton calls a “renaissance.” Invariably, this means the audience for events like the BSPBF is also changing. Fritton says he wants to take a minute to rethink how organizations like the Book Fair can participate in an evolving community.
“10 years is a good round number to be able end things on my own terms, not have it sputter out or fade away,” he says. “It would be out of character to do a big hullabaloo at this point. I’m happy to just celebrate the decade with a lot of new people, and people who were there from the beginning.”

The Buffalo Small Press Book Fair is happening on April 9 and 10 at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Porter Hall, 453 Porter Avenue, Buffalo, NY, from 11am-5pm. It is free to the public.

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