“Today I walked by Pele and Scott Turow. Where else could you do that?” said Allison Hill, president/COO of Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif. Despite some small changes in the scheduling and duration of this year’s BookExpo, Hill’s comments summarized that industry members still love BEA for what it’s traditionally been about—bringing booksellers face-to-face with editors, celebrities, and big-ticket authors.
Overall, people thought traffic on Wednesday was strong. And booksellers, despite some grumbling, embraced the shift to midweek. Workman’s group publisher, Bob Miller, called the mood “rocking,” noting, “It feels busier and more energetic than it has in the past five to six years.” Will Weisser, v-p, associate publisher, marketing director of Portfolio/Sentinel, said, “People seem happier about the midweek. It’s certainly more convenient for New York publishers.” And both Miller and Weisser noted that attendees seemed less focused on the economy this year.
Roger Cooper, publisher of Vanguard Press, was happy with the greater focus this year on digital: “People are talking about e-books and different platforms, more than just what’s the hot new book.” Cooper elaborated that it’s been exciting to see people on the show floor, tech entrepreneurs and others in the digital space, interested in the content the industry creates and the variety of ways it can, and will, be used. Penguin’s Susan Petersen Kennedy said she was happy with the turnout and that there was a good mix of booksellers and media at this year’s show. Harlequin’s Amy Jones added that she thinks the move to midweek has allowed more librarians to come to the show: “the mood is much more positive even than last year.”
Of course, booksellers weren’t without complaint. Some were frustrated by the lack of the galleys. Others complained about having to leave their stores on nights dedicated to in-store events—as one marketing manager noted, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights are popular nights for in-store author events. And still others, said one sales rep, were disappointed with the switch to midweek, since they could no longer make a long weekend out of their BEA trip.
Regardless of the inevitable complaints, the heart of BEA, which allows booksellers to come together, is as important as ever. As Miller noted, with more and more pressure on smaller retailers as the e-book business grows, BEA allows booksellers to share ideas and commiserate. “The more bookselling is under siege,” he said, “the more booksellers want to connect and prosper.”