This year’s National Book Awards won’t be held in person after all.
The National Book Foundation announced Friday that its annual award ceremony will be completely virtual, “in light of public health concerns and ongoing uncertainty related to the coronavirus.”
That’s an about-face from the foundation, after an announcement in July that the ceremony would be held in person at Cipriani Wall Street, the traditional home for the awards.
David Steinberger, the chair of the foundation’s board of directors, said the organization had been “cautiously optimistic” that they’d be able to hold an in-person event this year.
“The National Book Awards have always been a unique—and sizeable—event, with authors, publishers, and guests traveling from all over the country to attend,” Steinberger said. “Given the current reality of the ongoing global pandemic, this year’s National Book Awards Ceremony will be a fully virtual event to best protect the health and safety of the book community.”
The pivot back to a virtual event reflects renewed fear of the coronavirus after its highly transmissible Delta variant emerged in the U.S. this spring.
Ruth Dickey, the foundation’s executive director, said the organization is still looking forward to holding the ceremony.
“We have all had to adapt and change over the past eighteen months, and books continue to provide a sense of comfort and connection, opening the world to us all even during these uncertain times,” she said.
The virtual National Book Awards ceremony will be held on Nov. 17.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.