Despite the ongoing problems of General Publishing and the death of popular Canadian author Timothy Findley, BookExpo 2002, which ran June 21— 24 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, turned out to be a positive affair for booksellers and publishers alike. Attendance at the enhanced trade show was up from last year, with 34% more booksellers and about 5,000 attendees overall. The trade show floor, which featured a live cooking demonstration area, grew 10%.
"I found it a very positive show—extremely positive," said Kim McArthur, president and publisher of McArthur & Company. "It seems that everybody was expecting a funeral, but it wasn't. Everything was extremely positive, and people are forging ahead." More than 350 people crowded the McArthur booth when Joanna Trollope signed books. "We were very pleased with our traffic. There was a very buoyant mood, and I think everyone's gotten the sense that we've turned a corner, particularly because of the code of conduct," McArthur said, referring to the document signed by Indigo Books that dictates its terms with publishers.
Key Porter Books publisher and CEO Anna Porter concurred, saying that she was very pleased with the show. "Our booth was so well attended; my only regret was that we were unable to take more orders," Porter lamented. "Talk was not about politics, it was about books. It's exactly what I thought a fair like this is supposed to be," she added, noting that she intends to take a larger booth next year.
Although General Publishing's bankruptcy continued to occupy publishers' thoughts, many remained upbeat.
"Only three publishers have gone into receivership in the last 30 years. We're finding ourselves to be a very feisty bunch," McArthur said, adding that she does hope General owner Jack Stoddart sells his assets and that struggling publishers get paid. Many publishers affected by General were cheered by the news that Sheila Copps, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, will issue early payments to publishers who receive funding from the Book Publishing Industry Development Program.
Despite its financial woes, General still retained a large booth at the show. Wilf Clarke, General's v-p of sales and marketing, said, "People are happy to see us here. My take on the situation is that we are here presenting our list, which we went into bankruptcy protection with. We very much believe these books and authors deserve their place in the sun; they deserve to be promoted and presented at a venue like this."
Anansi, which was recently sold by General, managed to secure its own booth at the fair at the last minute. "We're really happy to have our own booth at BEC," said Martha Sharpe, publisher. "We have a fantastic fall list."
HarperCollins Canada came out of the show as the most celebrated publisher after receiving five out of the 10 Libris Awards from the Canadian Booksellers Association. While accepting the award for Publisher of the Year, HarperCollins Canada president David Kent and publisher Iris Tupholme paid tribute to their award-winning author and friend, Timothy Findley, who died June 20. HarperCollins Canada author Richard B. Wright took home both Author of the Year and Book of the Year for Clara Callen; Wright has won all of Canada's major awards this year, including the Giller Prize. His editor, Phyllis Bruce, was awarded Editor of the Year. The Libris Awards are nominated and voted on by members of Canada's bookselling community.
At Book Summit 2002, the Supply Chain Initiative Steering Committee delivered its recommendations on how to modernize the book industry supply chain to about 350 booksellers, distributors and publishers in attendance.
The committee noted the need for an agency to oversee a strategic approach to implementing supply chain improvements. It also suggested adopting Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) documents as an industrywide electronic communications platform. In addition, the committee suggested undertaking an assessment of the industry's current technological capacity to create and transmit biographical records, in order to pursue improvements related to data and data collection.
"An improved supply chain will result in an industry that is more efficient, viable, resilient to change and, ultimately, better equipped to produce and promote Canadian books," said Allan Clarke, director general, publishing policy and programs, for the Department of Canadian Heritage.
The Canadian Booksellers Association's general meeting ran smoothly, according to president Todd Anderson. The discussion focused on Amazon.ca. The organization also decided to forgo hiring an executive director for the time being, keeping its staff at four, down from seven last year.
Dave Di Marcantonio, president of InstaBook Canada, said the show was a great success. The company's InstaBook machines, which it demonstrated on the floor, garnered a lot of interest from booksellers. At the show, Di Marcantonio signed a deal with the University of Alberta Bookstore, which will install a machine later this summer, becoming the company's third customer (print-on-demand machines have been installed at Book Express in Cambridge, Mass., and at Coach House Books' printing division). Di Marcantonio expects to have 13 systems in the marketplace in the next few months.
New at the show was Aboriginal Book Publishers of Canada. The umbrella group, which includes Kegedonce Press, Gabriel Dumont Institute, Pemmican Publications Inc. and Theytus Books Ltd., focuses on publishing books by aboriginals.
Next year's BEC is set for June 6—9.