BEA 2000: Show Daily
Staff -- 6/3/00
Sweet Home Chicago | Good Times for ABA | F&W, Perseus in Acquisitions
World Web Widens | One-Stop Web Shopping | Heard on the Floor
Sweet Home Chicago
This year's BEA marked the end of an era of existential angst about why, when and where to hold the show, about lawsuits and boycotts, and about logistical problems.
For the first time in years, these issues all seemed settled, allowing the industry to focus on business, from nuts-and-bolts matters of highlighting fall books to learning about the latest in e-publishing.
First-timer Tom Smithson of Buchmeister Books, Chatham, N.J., called the show "amazing, marvelous." He liked having all the exhibits in one hall and said, "It's very well organized."
Random House's Stuart Applebaum said his booth "was jammed all day" with people "talking about books, not just future methods of delivery. People are glad to be here; the mood is upbeat." He also praised Courtney Muller and the BEA staff for a "Lazarus-like job" of making BEA "a viable show to its many constituencies."
Tony Rose, publisher and CEO of Amber Books, Ph nix, Ariz., which specializes in African-American titles, called the show "wonderful." The three-time exhibitor said this was his "biggest year yet."
"A lot of bookseller badges," commented Lisa Levinson, national director of field sales at S&S. "Traffic's been steady since the show opened this morning. We're seeing a wide variety of customers from just about every part of the country. And all kinds of customers: travel bookstores, audio bookstores, general bookstores, wholesalers--the whole gamut."
George Young, a founder Ten Speed Press, who has been attending "for longer than I care to remember," observed, "It seems to get more relaxed every year. There's no longer the frantic rush in search of the big book--you already bought it two months ago." Another veteran, Martin Levin, who specializes in arranging publisher mergers, joked: "It's amazing to see a hall this big filled with so much activity."
Michael Ritt, trade sales manager at Sourcebooks, said that though his company's location, behind the foreign publishers' stands, was "not the greatest," they'd been "doing as much as we can to draw traffic," including having impersonators at the stand. Having the show in Chicago is "convenient," Ritt said, but he's also "really glad we'll be moving around."
"A lot of smiles, a lot of talk about the Internet" was the observation of newly minted consultant to the audiobook industry Seth Gershel. "But there's also a lot of the basic business of what we used to call the ABA."
Blue Badge Report
Booksellers comprised a broader range of book retailers than at past shows, with more representatives of used bookstores and online booksellers. Rick Lopez of Ollie's Bargin Outlet, a closeout/salvage chain in Pennsylvania and Maryland, said he was writing a lot of orders. "We've done a fair amount of business already," he said. "A lot of the remainder houses we deal with are here."
"I'm excited the show's back in Chicago," said Kathleen McGowan, manager of trade books at Notre Dame Bookstore. "I was kind of disillusioned the last time the show was here, so it's nice to see all the publishers back, cohabitating peacefully."
In the News
Many of the announcements at the show centered around alliances with new media companies: Sprout has an agreement with netLibrary, and with the Independent Booksellers Consortium; Lighting Source did deals with Adobe and Amazon.com; and BookZone has also teamed with Adobe for e-books.
Booksellers welcomed BookSense.com, the ABA's e-commerce product that is available to Book Sense stores for testing. Already 158 stores have signed up. Will Peters, manager of Annie Bloom's Books, Portland, Ore., said he was interested in seeing what's been done with BookSense.com and the projected timetable. "I'm hoping they can regain momentum." Tiffany Durham, manager of Toad Hall Children's Bookstore in Austin, Tex., said she uses the Book Sense 76 list to choose a selection of adult books for a "books for tall people" section in her store. "The list helps me pick some of the good books my colleagues are selling in their stores."
The National Association of College Stores' warehouse operation, NACSCORP, introduced Bookseller's Edge yesterday, the fire time the warehouse has been opened to non-NACS members. Pam Sedmak, executive v-p of NACSCORP, said that bookseller response has been strong. She noted, "They're especially interested in our retail services program," which includes shelf talkers, ad slicks and bag stuffers.
Many of the pre-show programs drew enthusiastic crowds, particularly e-publishing workshops at McCormick Place. PMA's BEA University drew 600 participants for the usual round of detailed seminars on issues to independent presses.
All in all , attendees seemed ready to endorse the Windy City's unofficial theme song, "Sweet Home Chicago." Beacon's director of publicity Pam MacColl spoke for many when she said, "I love Chicago. We're going to have a great show."
--Diane Roback and John Mutter
Good Times for ABA
Members at the ABA's town meeting and annual meeting yesterday afternoon were full of cheer, congratulating the board, executives and themselves for a well-done year. Among the major achievements: the establishment of Book Sense; the ongoing lawsuit against Barnes & Noble and Borders; the fight to have sales taxes collected by B&N.com and Borders.com; and the blocking of B&N's acquisition of Ingram.
Following the departure of Jerry Jacobs from Jenner & Block, the association has signed on Arent, Fox, Washington, D.C., as general counsel, although Jenner & Block continue to represent the ABA in the B&N/Borders suit. Jenner & Block's David DeBruin said the discovery period will end by the beginning of August. While he couldn't comment on the information the firm has garnered so far, he said, "We will prove" the case.
DeBruin called the new judge in the case, William H. Orrick, "wonderful." As the "independent, irascible" former head of the antitrust division of the Justice Department in the Kennedy Administration, he is versed in the issues and runs a tight courtroom.
Although ABA bookstore membership declined 6% to 3,166 and independents' share of the market dropped to 15.2% in 1999 from 16.6% the previous year, executive director Avin Domnitz vowed that because of BookSense, independents' market share will increase in the coming years.
F&W, Perseus in Acquisitions
While alliances between new media companies swirled around the convention floor, two publishers announced old-fashioned acquisitions. F&W Publications has reached an agreement to acquire David & Charles Group, while the Perseus Books Group has agreed to buy Fisher Books.
F&W expects to close the purchase of David & Charles, which is based in the U.K., by June 30. Stephen Kent, CEO of F&W, says the purchase will give the company "a platform for expanding our book business in the U.K. and Europe." The company specializes in the areas of fine art, crafts, hobbies and gardening. Neil Page, managing director of David & Charles, will continue in his role after the sale is completed.
Perseus also expects to close its purchase of Fisher Books by June 30. Jack McKeown, CEO of Perseus, says Fisher will add depth to a number of niche markets where Perseus already operates. Founded in 1987, Fisher publishes about 25 titles per year in the fields of pregnancy and childbirth, parenting, health and how-to. Howard Fisher will remain publisher of Fisher after the purchase and will report to McKeown and David G hring, publisher of Perseus Publishing.
World Web Widens
Publishers from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy and Poland took the stage Thursday in a half-day seminar called "Business at the Speed of Rights: How the Market for Books Is Changing Worldwide," and painted a picture of rapid change in which the development of e-commerce was the great imponderable. The session, moderated by Marcella Berger, v-p and veteran director of subsidiary rights at Simon & Schuster, was sponsored by the International Rights Committee of the AAP.
The foreign-language publishers all spoke of fiction lists strongly dominated by translated titles from the U.S. and Britain, and both Jorge Naveiro of Argentina's Atlantida and Sergio Machado of Brazil's Distribuidora Record lamented the comparative lack of bookstores in their huge and sparsely populated countries. In both, online bookselling is in its infancy, though both see strong potential there. For Dorota Malinowska of Poland's Proszynski, the problem was rather different: far too many distributors fighting to get books into 3000 bookstores, with a corresponding catastrophic reduction in the price of books; the establishment recently of two major Internet sellers and a reduction in the number of wholesalers should improve the situation, she said.
Online bookselling has caught on faster in Australia than in most other countries outside the U.S., according to Jon Attenborough of Simon & Schuster Australia, who spoke of a book business that already sees $600 million annually in online sales. The 30-day rule, under which books published elsewhere and licensed to Australia have to be published locally within 30 days of their original appearance, has made local publishers "faster and smarter."
Dorothee Grisebach of Germany's Dr mer Knaur said that, rather unusually in a country that buys heavily in English-language translation rights, there were only six Anglo-American authors on last year's fiction bestseller lists; she believes that national taste is moving more toward literary and upmarket titles and away from old popular thriller favorites ("boys' books"), and a crop of new agents is concentrating more on German authors. Too many high advances for authors like Stephen King had not earned out. "There are too many books, and the midlist and backlist are both declining."
Rosaria Carpinelli of Italy's Rizzoli Editore, who noted that 85% of translated fiction and general nonfiction comes from the English language, claimed that her company is better at selling translation rights to its authors than most--and noted that it is now putting rights information for foreign scouts and publishers on its Web site.
--John F. Baker
One-Stop Web Shopping
There's a lot more to selling books on the Internet than author chats and mass e-mailings, and writer Susan Bergman is out to prove it.
Bergman, author of the 1994 memoir Anonymity and the forthcoming novel Buried Life, is founder of PreviewPort.com, a Web site that officially launched at BEA. Based in Chicago, PreviewPort.com (booth 2423) is an ambitious e-business that combines an independent bookstore with an online community for book lovers, a Web showcase for authors, a national literary calendar, a paper-to-electronic book conversion service and more.
For its Author Portfolios, PreviewPort.com works with publishers to build and host Web pages. Among the writers already on board are Steve Martin, Po Branson and Tim O'Brien. Publishers can also work with PreviewPort.com to augment their own marketing efforts, Bergman explains. "We're launching Steve Martin's new novel for Hyperion at BEA," she notes.
PreviewPort.com has partnered with Baker & Taylor to sell books online. Cargo, the e-commerce arm of PreviewPort.com, will be comparable to an independent bookstore in price and selection, says Bergman.
Skoobe, or "e-books" spelled backward, is PreviewPort.com's online area aimed at young readers. The company is hoping to build an extensive library of downloadable e-books for children and young adults.
--James A. Martin
Heard on the Floor
Snow Big Deal... Because of thunderstorms in the Chicago area, many BEA-bound travellers encountered delays and cancelled flights on Wednesday. Staffers from Falcon Publishing (Helena, Mont.) had perhaps the most unusual reason for weather delays: blinding snow, which forced them to take a bus to Great Falls to catch a flight eastbound.
Have You Seen This Woman? Somewhere between the hours of 3 a.m., when the final touches were put on the HarperCollins booth, and 7 a.m., the poster of WWF wrestler Chyna was ripped off. When HC's Laurie Rippon showed up, she noticed a gaping hole on one of the walls. There's a reward if the poster is returned--perhaps a round with the wrestling queen, dinner or a signed edition of the ReganBook title. The book will be out in September; first printing is 300,000.
This space for sale: Commenting on the profusion of advertisements throughout the convention center, one industry wag walked by an unadorned pillar and was heard to say, "This post brought to you by..."
Amy Alessio, teen coordinator of the Schaumburg Township Library in Illinois, told the audience at Thursday's "Targeting Teens" panel that she likes to market award-winning titles to her teen patrons by calling them Censored Books--"that seems to help," she said.
What's His Name Again? During set-up, one of the union workers wanted to know if "that guy from Amazon" was here. "I wanna discuss my stock with him," he told PW.
Why Julie Garwood Is Not Signing? She wasn't supposed to, because she's getting ready for her 15+-city tour at the end of June for Heartbreaker, a Pocket Book hardcover. So why is she on the schedule for tomorrow? An overzealous publicist booked several slots for authors back in January, including one for Garwood. No one remembered to check with her and no one remembered to cancel.