Michigan makes and exports hundreds of thousands of them every year. Each intricate stage of their production is entrusted to local companies with decades of prestigious history behind their work. Whether they’re recent makes or old favorites, there’s sure to be something for every buyer’s taste.

The 9th Annual Kerrytown BookFest

Sunday at 11 a.m.
Kerrytown Farmer’s Market

But these buyers aren’t choosing between pickups and sedans — they’re sizing up hardcovers and paperbacks.

The annual Kerrytown BookFest celebrates the often overlooked yet thriving literary community nestled within the heart of the Great Lakes State. The celebration is famous for its focus on Michigan’s wealth of local talent as well as its inclusion of techniques from every stage in the book-making process.

“It’s not just about authors and publishers,” said Gene Alloway, BookFest Board President and owner of local bookstore Motte & Bailey. “We include papermakers, book artists, binders, printers, letterpress artists, poster makers — you name it. It’s having all of those people all in one spot which makes us pretty unique.”

More than just a place to buy and sell books, the festival is entertainingly educational. Exhibits and demonstrations allow attendees a rare glimpse into the conceptual and tangible halves of the creative process behind books and other print items.

“We have writer talks, there are craftspeople working, there are activities for children, there are authors signing their books and there’s usually a storyteller,” Alloway said. “Used and new booksellers and some publishers do have stuff to buy, but you could go for the whole day without spending any money.”

This year’s festival theme, “Michigan Voices,” puts a special emphasis on creative minds from the surrounding region. Speakers include Robin Agnew, owner of Aunt Agatha’s mystery bookshop, Caldecott Award-winning children’s authors Erin and Philip Stead and NPR reporter Kate Davidson, along with nearly 50 additional guests ranging from authors and producers to illustrators and photographers.

The theme also shines a much-deserved spotlight on local book-based businesses. Despite the fact that several famous printers and publishers live in the area, most people are unaware of the sheer size of Michigan’s contribution to the literary world.

“One of the long traditions in our area is printing,” Alloway said. “For example, the bestselling autobiography of Mark Twain that came out was printed by Thomson Shore in Dexter, Michigan, and they just got an order to print their 175,000th copy. There’s still more books physically made between the suburbs of Detroit and Manchester than anywhere else in the world.”

The Kerrytown BookFest has become a local tradition, now celebrating its ninth year. Although people of all ages are encouraged to attend, Alloway said that the festival planners would enjoy seeing more University students in its crowds.

“One of the issues we get with University students is that everything west of Division Street seems to be terra incognito,” Alloway said. “As we grow we’re trying to reach out. It’s hard right now because everyone’s moving in and getting settled.”

The event’s swelling attendance continues to fuel public interest in the art of the written word. Ultimately, it’s the all-in-one package that Michigan’s literary community provides that makes its part in the industry — and the festival — such a success.

“We’re lucky to have a lot of great authors, but we also enjoy showing all of the steps and the people that get a book from author to reader,” Alloway said. “You don’t have to go to New York City to find a printer, to find an agent, to find a publisher, to find a bookstore. That’s one of the things that makes us great.”

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