BookExpo America shifts to midweek this year, running Wednesday through Friday rather than Thursday through Saturday as in years past. The show opens today, and the change in scheduling is aimed at making way for BookCon, which is open to the public this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, also at the Javits Center). This has not resulted in major changes for publishers and booksellers in their approach to the annual event.
Though the exhibit floor opened at 1 p.m. today, most publishers expect a normal first-day turnout. “We are anticipating good traffic today and very high volume tomorrow, but think Friday afternoon could be quieter than usual,” Alison Lazarus, president of sales for Macmillan, said. Perseus Books Group CEO David Steinberger said he has no concerns about the new schedule. Jon Malinowski, president of the Combined Book Exhibit, which operates booths for various companies at trade shows, said that most of the companies exhibiting with CBE are adopting a wait-and-see attitude, although no one has expressed serious concern. “As far as I can tell, it is business as usual,” he said.
Lazarus noted that even though BEA will be a little more compact than it has been in recent years, representatives from Macmillan started meeting with out-of-town visitors yesterday and will continue today in the publisher’s New York City offices to ensure that they can “see everyone who wants to meet with us.”
To most booksellers, the new start time is less of a concern than the ABA’s decision to pull back on its educational programming. Like last year, today kicks off with morning visits to publishing offices to meet editors, but instead of a full afternoon of programming at the Javits Center afterward, there is only one event—albeit with star author Jonathan Franzen—before the Adult Book Buzz panel. This is intended to give booksellers more time on the show floor this afternoon. “I was thrown for a loop that there wasn’t much education. Usually I think the sessions are more important than walking the floor,” said Lorna Ruby, adult book buyer at Wellesley Books in Wellesley, Mass. Suzanne DeGaetano, co-owner of Macs Backs-Books on Coventry, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, has been coming to BEA for more than 20 years and was also disappointed that ABA scheduled fewer educational sessions. On the other hand, two and a half days of show-floor time is “more than plenty for me,” she noted.
Jeremy Ellis, general manager of Brazos Bookstore, in Houston, said, “I haven’t gone to educational sessions at BEA since the Winter Institute began.” What matters most to him is meeting with small presses and visiting bookstores and publishers in Manhattan and Brooklyn. “We’re there for book business,” he said. “It’s just not all centered on BEA.”
In late May, simply attending can be tough for booksellers in tourist areas such as Manasquan, on the Jersey Shore, where the summer season for BookTowne has already begun. Its owner, Rita Maggio, said, “I always find BEA frustrating, with not enough time to see the authors who are there.” She plans to spend a single hectic day at the show on Friday. And though the midweek schedule works well for some booksellers, others, such as Tova Beiser, manager of Brown Bookstore, in Providence, R.I., miss the Saturday option. “It means I have to miss an extra day of the week,” she said. Beiser views the show changes as more about selling than learning. She does plan to place some orders for sidelines and to find another remainder line.
Many booksellers accept the changes to BEA as reflective of broader industry changes. Matt Norcross, co-owner of McLean & Eakin Booksellers, in Petoskey, Mich., said that he’s not concerned about the show floor opening midweek. He described it as “the evolution of the show” and plans to fill his time doing business. Similarly, ABA board member Sarah Bagby, owner of Watermark Books & Cafe, in Wichita, Kans., noted, “There have always been choices to make about what to attend. And this year is no different. I plan to use my time wisely and get my business done.”
This article appeared in the May 27, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.