Book fans to unite at Detroit Festival of Books at Eastern Market

Kaitlyn Luckoff
The Detroit News

Calling all bookworms — for the fifth year, the Detroit Festival of Books (Detroit Bookfest) will return to the Eastern Market Sunday.

 Also known as Detroit Bookfest, the largest book festival in Michigan is dedicated to fostering an appreciation and love for books. Throughout the day, vendors will sell comic books, vintage books, vinyl records and more. In addition to food and drink vendors, there will be live music throughout the event. Admission to the event is free. 

Detroit Bookfest in 2019.

Ryan Place, founder and event chairman, said the idea for the festival came to fruition as he was walking through the stacks of vintage books at John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit. Place said he was inspired by other book events held throughout the state, and felt that Detroit needed its own book festival that promotes literacy to an audience of all ages. He also wanted to make the event accessible to everyone, regardless of economic status.  

 Last year's event was canceled due to the pandemic. This year's festival will be scaled back to address health and safety concerns, said Place.

"We were in Shed 3, which is the largest shed at the Eastern Market, but we're going to stay in Shed 5 again this year to safely scale back up to where we were prior (to the pandemic)," he said. "When we were in Shed 3 back in 2019, we had 150-200 vendors. We're going to have less than 100 this year, just for health and safety reasons. We are hoping to be back in Shed 3 either next year or the following year. We just aren't trying to rush anything."

 Because they are limiting the amount of in-person vendors that are able to come to the festival, the organization is experimenting with a virtual Book Fest. Vendors that are not selected to participate in the in-person aspect of the event can apply here to list their digital storefront. Items that can be sold virtually include books, comic books, creative arts, ephemera, maps, paper items, posters and records.

John King on top of John King Books.

Named the second best bookstore in the world by Business Insider in 2014, John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit sells at Detroit Bookfest every year despite not vending at any other events in years. Store owner John King said in an emailed statement that  he enjoys meeting with local people looking for good books.

"We did fairs decades ago and quit, feeling having a bookstore was much more challenging and professional," King said. "Bookfest is a wonderful addition to Detroit's cultural heritage. Ryan does a great job managing it, which makes very comfortable for all booksellers exhibiting."

The festival is sponsored by KDZ Consulting and Technologies and DBusiness Magazine. There will be a variety of food vendors including: Delray Barbecue, Treat Dreams, Detroit Gourmet Nut Company, Big Dogs Hot Dogs, Cosmic Burrito, Bea’s Squeeze, and Eastern Market Brewing Company.

Also, the Arts and Scraps "scrap-mobile" will be on hand to give children free materials to make their own books.

Running concurrently with the event is an after-party that takes place with vendors and live music at the Eastern Market Brewing Company. 

5th Annual Detroit Festival of Books

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

Eastern Market

Shed 5: 2934 Russell St., Detroit

Free admission