After experimenting with different time frames for BookExpo, Reed Exhibitions has decided to return to an event that features two days of exhibits preceded by a full day of educational programming.
In a letter sent to industry members, event manager Jenny Martin said that, after analyzing customer feedback, the consensus was that the three-day 2019 show proved “challenging and costly” for many. As a result, BookExpo 2020 will open Wednesday, May 27, with a day dedicated exclusively to educational programming. That day will be followed by two days of exhibits. BookCon will be held immediately after BookExpo, running May 30-31. Exhibitors will once again have the option of exhibiting at both shows, or at just one.
Martin told PW that the 2020 show will close on Friday at 3 p.m. but may also run longer on Thursday than it did last year to give attendees and exhibitors adequate time on the floor.
While Reed’s research found that exhibitor satisfaction with the 2019 show was up over a very confusing 2018 (when companies had the option of exhibiting either two or three days at BookExpo) Martin conceded that the company still has "a lot of work to do.” The toughest challenge Reed has, Martin said, is aligning the different interests of the stakeholders who typically attend BookExpo.
Martin acknowledged that “it was no secret that some publishers took a year off from exhibiting at this year’s show,” and said wooing back mid-sized and independent publishers is one of Reed’s top priorities. “I think most people agree that the industry needs a place where they can all gather once a year,” Martin said. “Our job is to come up with the right format.”
One option that is likely to be given more visibility is allowing publishers to take tables rather than full booths, something that would get them in the Javits Center and into the show directory. In her letter, Martin said the new Independent Publisher Stage was popular last year and Reed plans to expand that program in 2020.
Another new addition that was a hit last year was UnBound, a section of the show featuring vendors that produce gifts and other bookselling items. UnBound will return in 2020.
The Editors Speed Dating program—where booksellers meet with editors—was a success as well, and will be expanded next year. Reed will also continue its grant program for booksellers, which helped underwrite the cost of attending the show to those in the field. Reed issued grants to 145 booksellers last year.
Less of a success, Martin noted in her letter, was the New York Rights Fair. Explaining that the fair drew exhibitors and attendees from more than 73 countries, Martin said that the future shape of NYRF is still under internal discussion.
While Reed is making a number of changes for 2020, Martin said even more changes could be introduced in 2021. She explained that before making too many changes, Reed wants to continue its discussions with all its BookExpo partners. “We don’t want to do things in a vacuum,” she said, adding that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to revamping the show. With this in mind, there is the possibility of moving the event out of New York City in some years. Such a move would likely be unpopular with the major New York City houses, but would be embraced by booksellers and others who find the cost of traveling to New York exorbitantly expensive.
“We want to create an efficient show that provides value for all attendees while also being affordable,” Martin said.