BEA Expands Boundaries
Lance Fensterman, event director of BookExpo America (BEA), has immersed himself in many areas of technology in order to promote BEA and gain valuable feedback from industry professionals. One of the ways he has done so is through his blog, BookExpo-Lance.BlogSpot.com, where he claims to blog from his travels around the world via his Blackberry. Prior to his current position, he was an independent bookseller for several years, and he says he draws on that experience frequently.
Book Business Extra spoke with Fensterman to discuss the theme of BEA 2007, its online community, his blog and more.
EXTRA: BEA 2007 had the overall theme of “Expanding Boundaries.” What did this mean, and why did you decide to expand on technology in 2007?
FENSTERMAN: “Expanding Boundaries” was a very simple and direct way to describe what has happened (and continues to happen) to BEA in a natural, evolutionary way. For instance, in the international marketplace, the world of books is being defined less narrowly by country and translation. Books in the English language are finding their way into many markets, and so there is an expanding boundary in this physical, geographical sense. BEA is in a position to take advantage of this change because we have a huge selection of English titles that are featured at our show.
At the same time, the world of books has found a new life in the endless stream of dialogue and literary criticism that takes place on the Internet. Social networking has become a critical part of how we conduct our business in the book industry, and social networking lies at the heart of what BEA is all about. So, again, this is another way for us to expand boundaries. BEA must harness the energy and ideas that come out of the show and put them to use over the course of the year through an active and sophisticated Web site presence. Our boundaries, both in terms of time and physical space, must be expanded to meet the needs of our customers so that we may service them throughout the year. Technology is one very obvious way of doing that.
EXTRA: This year, a custom online community was created for attendees, speakers, exhibitors and press called MyBEA. Do you believe MyBEA was effective this year?
FENSTERMAN: Over 60 percent of individuals who were invited to participate in MyBEA (meaning anyone attending BEA that provided us with an e-mail address) logged onto MyBEA at least twice. I would consider that a success. For future years, it’s data that will help me quantify what participants need from a show-planning and social-networking site that will help us craft an even better experience. MyBEA was clearly the first step in a bold, new direction for how BEA can help bring people together, interact and share information.
EXTRA: As BEA Event Director, what was the most impressive part of this year’s BEA in your opinion?
FENSTERMAN: I am most impressed by the rich diversity that BEA attracts and the staggering amount of energy the event creates. BEA really does bring the entire global book industry together in one place, and that is a sight.
EXTRA: Describe your blog, “Blogging with BEA Director Lance Fensterman,” and how you use it?
FENSTERMAN: As a bookseller, one of the keys to my store’s success was outstanding service and, in particular, personal service. I felt that BEA was lacking some of the personal connection that is so common in our business. The blog was an attempt to bring a more personal face to BEA, share my observations and insights, and to extend the reach and value of the show beyond three days in June. Other than that, I try to simply be myself, which usually involves plenty of humor, a smattering of typos and a casual writing style.
EXTRA: I noticed you are in the process of renaming your blog. Why do you feel it’s important for a blog to have a powerful name, and what are some of the names you have been considering?
FENSTERMAN: I don’t think it’s more important than writing consistently and having something to say--but yes, I think one could do better than I did in terms of selecting a name. I’m toying with a few ideas, but the key is that it must sound clever the first time you read it, and less and less so each time thereafter. I’m partial to Incorrected Proofs.
EXTRA: What you are working on for 2008?
FENSTERMAN: Barely a month after BEA 2007, we already have four or five major international initiatives well underway for 2008 and beyond. I hope this will come into focus (and the public eye) in the coming weeks. In general, I expect to see an increased emphasis on independent publishers, Asian publishers, Spanish language and, of course, booksellers and librarians. I, of course, have my best-laid plans, but ultimately the market will tell us what we need to be highlighting at the show--and if I’m doing my job, I’ll be listening.