Penguin Random House will not attend Bologna Book Fair, due to COVID-19, announced Tuesday morning. They become the second major publisher to pull out of the event, after Simon & Schuster, which announced their withdrawal on Friday. A representative for PRH told PL, “In light of the travel risks related to the Coronavirus and our ongoing concerns for the health and well-being of our employees, authors, and partners, Penguin Random House will not participate in the Bologna Book Fair.” On Monday evening the Italian government imposed a country-wide quarantine, banning essentially all public gatherings and severely limiting travel in and out of the country, until April 3.
In New York, as employers broadly are evaluating work-from-home options and curtailed travel, PRH US has a task force and a steering committee that meet daily to discuss plans related to the virus. A representative said they are actively preparing business continuity and contingency plans. Similarly, Hachette Book Group is “closely monitoring developments and making the most current information available to employees.” A spokesperson told us this includes: “Maintaining high level safety and sanitation protocols in all of our 8 locations; Planning and preparation for possible disruption in our 8 locations (reps from Operations, HR, Communications, Facilities); Adjusting author and staff travel for events as needed; can proceed as long as venue is continuing as planned and author is comfortable with travel; Advising all employees to bring laptops home each evening to be able to work from home in case one of our offices must be closed.”
Amazon has included employees in New York and New Jersey in its work-from-home advisory, the company said Monday. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has asked local employers to consider limiting people who travel to the office: “For a business that can allow more employees to telecommute, we want you to do that,” he said at a press conference. “We simply want to reduce the number of people on mass transit just to open up some more space.”
Elsewhere, the National Book Critics Circle Awards cancelled its March 12 awards ceremony and its finalist reading on March 11. “We are all crushed,” said NBCC President Laurie Hertzel in a statement. “We did not make this decision lightly. We discussed it as a board for days and with the New School at length, but this was really the only possible decision. We are looking forward to celebrating our winners at the rescheduled gala this fall.”
Additionally, Chilean writer Luis Sepulveda, who lives in northern Spain, has contracted COVID-19. He began to show symptoms on February 25 after returning home from the Correntes d’Escritas festival, held from February 15 through February 23, in Northern Portugal. As a result, Portuguese authorities are reportedly trying to make contact with the people who attended the festival. Sepulveda’s publisher Porto indicated their staff “are all well, but, according to the recommendations of the [health authorities], they will stay at home, under surveillance, until the stipulated deadline.” The regional government said he is “stable” and indicated his wife is “also displaying the symptoms and is being tested.”