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"The value of personal interaction still trumps all" is a firm belief of Steve Rosato, BEA show manager, who is all fired up for BEA 2011, the second under his command. And while the event's main focus is books and authors, technology and the digital revolution is also at the epicenter of this year's Expo—big time.

Yes, BEA is back, this year a little brawnier, now running three days as opposed to last's year's experiment at two. Rosato's emphasis on "authors" and "event" is again in evidence, as the show will feature more than 600 authors and 1,300 exhibitors. Along with pre-, post-, and concurrent programs, the Javits Center will be hopping for a full week, beginning with a Do-It-Yourself full day of meetings on Saturday, May 21, and ending with a Book Blogger Convention on Friday, May 27.

Digital Partners

BEA attendees will enjoy the company of a strong digital presence, both on the show floor and at concurrent special programming. BookExpo has formed partnerships with International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), Publishers Launch, and BlogWorld, offering conventioneers access to leading shakers and movers in the digital publishing/distribution world.

The partnership with IDPF includes the IDPF Digital Zone, which to date has 30 booths and 20 kiosks in 7,500 square feet of space at the Javits not including Google, Amazon, and HP, all of whom have substantial booths outside the Digital Book Zone. IDPF will also conduct its well-established Digital Book Conference on Monday and Tuesday. In addition, the recently announced Publishers Launch Conferences, a partnership between Michael Cader and Mike Shatzkin, will debut at BookExpo America on May 25 with a day-long session about digital change that's aimed at international visitors and the Americans who might be doing business with them.

On Tuesday, comes BlogWorld and New Media Expo; on Friday--the day after the show floor closes--the Javits will host the second annual Book Blogger Convention, the world's largest social media business conference and new media industry trade show. Expectations are that sharing the same venue and timing will benefit new and traditional media players, improving communications at all levels.

Adding to this techno-energy, BEA's conference program (still in formation at this writing) will be even more heavily focused on digital issues, with panels on the latest intelligence, social media, emerging publishing models, and enhanced e-books. Other digital activity and diversification at BEA include an introduction of a new mobile app for BEA; live Twitter feeds running at key conference programs; enhanced and expanded video podcasts of all author special events via According to Rosato, the new partnerships and initiatives "signal the biggest change that BEA has ever had in one single year.... BEA not only needs to keep up with this change, it needs to be part of this change and perhaps even influence the change."

We should say as well that PW's own Show Daily will be published and distributed on the three days of the exhibit, and is done so this year in partnership with BEA. Last year, before PW's purchase from Reed by George Slowik Jr., both the BEA show organizers and Show Daily were under the same corporate ownership. Since the sale, PW and BEA have formalized their partnership in the show. Look for official BEA updates and addenda in the Show Daily.

Books & Authors

Of course, BEA will always be about the books and authors, which are the pulse of this event. There will be no shortage of either, with three breakfasts, three buzz panels, about 500 autographings in a special area as well as in publishers' booths. With all the book literati in New York at this time and BEA's tradition as an exclusive convention for book industry members, there is a lot of excitement on the synergistic opportunities for BEA's New York Book Week taking place the week of May 23 for the general consumer. Public events at bookstores, New York Public Library, the Center for Fiction, Symphony Space, and even the new Apple store will give the public lots of access to authors.

The Center for Fiction is hosting a program for Spanish-language authors at its space on East 47th Street on Sunday night; the New York Public Library is featuring a science fiction/fantasy evening on Tuesday; Charlaine Harris is doing a reading and q&a in Bryant Park on Wednesday during lunchtime; later in the evening, Symphony Space is having performers Gabriel Byrne and Cynthia Nixon read from a new collection of Edna O'Brien short stories.

How Many Booksellers

Ask Steve Rosato about publishers not taking booths at BEA or downsizing to smaller booths, and he calls it "rightsizing." Note the fall-off of university presses, and he says what many know: that staff and budget reduction is a key reason and that UPs "are slower to rebound." He says that BEA has the highest satisfaction rate—86%—of all the conventions run by Reed Exhibitions.

Rosato notes that he is specifically focused on bringing VIP retailers to BEA, and these include independents ("they are more important than ever before"); the mega-retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million; and specialty stores. He points to the museum stores coming this year as a sign of this success: "We have 415 new buyers and staff coming." In fact, Wednesday has been named Museum Day, and BEA has arranged for special ID badges. There was also a strong push for category buyers and other specialty outlets.

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