BookExpo America returns to Chicago’s McCormick Place, May 11–13, after an absence of 12 years. The annual book publishing and bookselling convention is no stranger to the Windy City, however. Between 1995 and 2001, the show was in Chicago every year except 1999, when it headed west to Los Angeles. After decamping from Chicago in 2004 and making some stops in Washington (2006) and Los Angeles (2008), the event found a home in New York City starting in 2009.

The decision to return BEA to Chicago was due to a number of factors, Brien McDonald, event director, says. The available dates at New York’s Javits Center were “not optimal,” but the most important reason for the switch, McDonald notes, is to attract a range of book buyers that haven’t made it to New York. In that regard, the 2016 event is doing well. Preregistration among book buyers—which include booksellers, librarians, museum stores, and specialty retailers—is up over 2015 in the Midwest, especially in the heartland states of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Missouri. McDonald says registration is also strong from book buyers in California, Washington, and Texas. “We’re getting a lot of fresh faces,” McDonald says, noting that BEA is seeing a 40% increase in new registrations for its book buyers VIP program.

The move to Chicago has had some downsides, though. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Rodale are sitting out, for instance. “We are disappointed they chose not to come,” McDonald says. And the short gap between the London Book Fair and BEA, and the fact the event is not in New York City, will likely result in a decline of international participants. Still, McDonald says, “the show floor will be very vibrant.”

An area that BEA has strengthened is its commitment to diversity. The show “will reflect what the country looks like,” McDonald says. Among other initiatives, BEA has partnered with We Need Diverse Books to program a number of events. Digital ways to communicate will also be up in McCormick. BEA has relaunched its mobile app, which will provide attendees with the latest show information and ways to customize the show experience. In addition, during the event PubMatch, the online rights marketplace, will be available to BEA participants on a free trial basis. The goal of the new technology efforts is to help those in attendance better connect with the people they need to meet, McDonald explains.

The structure of the show will follow the form of the 2015 event. BEA’s content and digital conference program will run all day on Wednesday, May 11, and the show floor will open at 1 p.m. that day and close at 5:30. The exhibit hall will be open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. Educational panels and ABA programs will also be held on those days. The Adult Author Breakfast will be Thursday morning, and the Children’s Author Breakfast will be Friday. BEA will be followed by BookCon on Saturday, which will also be at McCormick Place (for more on BookCon, see p. 34).

To help give books and authors more exposure, BEA reached a deal with PBS, which will livestream about four hours of programming centered on author interviews. The network will also tape some panels to show at a later date. The PBS partnership and the increased social media aspects of the show, McDonald says, “are our way to break out BEA beyond the walls of the convention center.”

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