With less talk than last year about the economy and even less debate over the future of the event itself, BookExpo America concluded its first run as a midweek show May 27 with many calling the show a success. There was one mid-course correction, as Reed Exhibitions, which owns the show, announced Thursday morning that it was restoring the number of days the exhibition hall will be opened to three from two. Next year's expo will be held May 23–26, with the seminars and panels to be held on Monday, May 23, and the floor to be opened May 24–26.
BEA managers, who usually consult with industry groups before making any significant alterations to the show, moved quickly to restore the third day for 2011. Many international publishers and agents were upset about a twoday show and questioned whether it was worth the money to return to New York next year. While most New York houses were happy with the shorter show, many from out of town—booksellers, librarians, and publishers—were happy to hear about the return of the third day. “I thought the two days were awesome, but I can see why three days are necessary. You need the time to get more work done and more time to create buzz,” said Kathy Caldwell, owner of A Great Good Place for Books, Oakland, Calif. Susan Weis, owner of breathe books, Baltimore, Md. said two days wasn't enough time to get everything done. “I felt rushed even though the show seems smaller and more manageable,” she said. “I would have liked more time to walk around. But midweek I liked, because now I can go home and have a Memorial Day weekend.” Thursday, she noted, was “too rushed. The last day was always wandering about, meandering. There's not the meandering this year.”
Brett Waldman, publisher of Tristan Publishing in Minneapolis, said he was agreeable to whatever book buyers want. “We thought the two day show was great, but a three-day show is better. Some people were working harder and faster. But it's not what we want, it's what the buyers want. If they want a five-day show, we'll be here for five days,” he said. One reason BEA shortened the show was that there was sparse attendance on Sunday on the exhibit floor. Industry consultant Tom Woll observed that with BEA now ensconced in midweek, in 2011 “we'll find out if people didn't come because it was Sunday or if they were really finished with the show.”
The fact that so many groups wanted a longer show is a vote of confidence itself for an event that is sometimes derided as out-of-date. A number of the industry's biggest players backed the need for the show. Penguin CEO David Shanks noted that with so many challenges, it was a good time for the different parts of the industry to come together to discuss the various issues they all face (Shanks was on Tuesday's CEO panel). Random House chairman and CEO Markus Dohle was very happy with the bookseller turnout Wednesday. “We were mobbed,” he said. Dohle said BEA still provides “great exposure for our authors and lets us connect booksellers with authors.” He pronounced himself to be “very positive about BEA.” Ingram once again had one of the biggest booths at the show and chairman John Ingram said his commitment to BEA has never been stronger. The company is transforming itself from a distributor of print books to one that offers a range of services for publishers, and Ingram said that as the company becomes more oriented toward publishers, “BEA becomes nothing but more important for us.”