BookExpo America: Still Valuable for Many Publishers, Though Questions of Its Future Lurk on the Horizon
In advance of this year's BookExpo America (BEA), held May 28-31 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, one might have expected to see tumbleweeds blowing through the aisles, based on pre-show media coverage and word in the blogosphere pondering the show's future and its role in the industry. While a number of exhibitors noted that traffic seemed lighter this year, and many publishers downsized their booth space or decided not to exhibit at all (Thomas Nelson, which announced its decision prior to the 2008 BEA, was among the most notable not to exhibit), the event was successful for many publishers—though their objectives for "success" varied, and few seem to include actual sales. Also, many publishers' booths were difficult to traverse due to crowds.
Still, some publishers question the future of the venerable event, suggesting changes must be made in order to sustain it. A number of people also questioned the show's lack of its usual presence of celebrities and evening soirees, suggesting the show may be losing some of its high-brow appeal. The number of educational sessions was also down this year—to about 50 from 100 in previous years.
As for actual attendance, according to BookExpo's official post-event release, the final number of verified attendees, excluding exhibitor personnel, was 12,025—representing a 30-percent increase over the 2008 show held in Los Angeles, but a 30-percent decrease over the 2007 show in New York City.
According to BEA, "Large attendee contingents from the three major national retailers (Borders, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million) were in attendance, as was Amazon.com. Buyers from Hastings, Urban Outfitters, Target, Costco, Wal-Mart and other major nationwide retailers also attended."
Lance Festerman, vice president and show manager for BEA, was not available at press time for direct comment on whether or not BEA organizers felt this year's show was a success.